‘If the light in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness’. It is the Christ within who is the First Initiator. The entrance to the Path is to be sought within, not without, for it is a state of exalted consciousness. But once that consciousness is attained, the Path is objective as well as subjective. Some teachers declare the Path to be entirely subjective, saying that the aim of initiation is the perfecting of man; others teach that initiation is an astral experience; while popular thought often believes than the man who seeks initiation will find it in some remote district behind high walls. None of these concepts contains the whole truth, but there is an element of truth in all of them. In order to attain to initiation the raising of consciousness to a degree higher than is common among the average of humanity is necessary Consciousness must not only transcend the five physical senses, but it must also transcend ordinary psychism if the experience which is connoted by the term initiation in these pages is to be achieved. Initiation is a spiritual, not an astral experience; the candidate shifts the focus of his consciousness from the personality the unit of incarnation, to the individuality, the immortal ego, or unit of evolution, and the consciousness of the individuality, being abstract, is able to apprehend the things of the spirit.
The initiate transfers the focus of his consciousness from the personality to the individuality, and therefore things which are hidden from the ordinary man are perceptible to him. He lives in an evolution, not in an incarnation, and consequently all his values are changed. He can see deeply into the realm of causes, perceiving events brewing on the inner planes long before they become manifest on the outer; therefore he has the gift of prophecy. Seeing causes, he can often control them; therefore he appears to have magical powers. Operating upon the higher planes, which act as controlling-levels to the lower planes, he can balance force against force by throwing his will into the scale, and so change the issue of events on the physical plane. These things it is which cause the initiate to be regarded as possessed of magical powers; but these powers are not of the nature of magic; the initiate achieves his ends by employing the powers of his higher self on the higher planes, even as does the wayfaring man whose prayer achieves an answer.
The Path which leads to initiation is the way of life which enables a man to rise above the desires and limitations of his personality and live in his higher self, and the experience of initiation is the transference of consciousness from the personality to the individuality.
A man sets foot upon the Path immediately he desires to do so. This is the first step, and a very simple one. But it is only by continuation of desire that he sets one foot before another, which is the treading of the Path. It is very few souls who maintain a sufficiently steadfast desire to enable them to make perceptible progress; but desire, steadily continued, will presently be found to have achieved the desired aim, and the candidate will be placed in possession of the necessary knowledge to enable him to make purposive progress and to direct his efforts to a definite end. It is for this reason that the Masters found and support such organizations as the Theosophical Society, the Anthroposophical Society, the Rosicrucian Fellowship, and many others, less well known but not less useful, and to all such, those who have seen the dawn should give their support out of gratitude for the light they have themselves received and in order that the Path may be made easier for others.
Through the books and lectures of such societies as these the candidate will learn that his dream has a foundation in fact, and that his inner urge is founded on a true instinct; they will give him a map of the Path, though no one but himself can tread it. From them he will learn of the origin of man as a divine potentiality, of his evolution through the sevenfold experiences of form, and of his ultimate transcendence of form in the development of the divine actuality; he will learn of the seven planes and the possibilities of those planes, and he will also learn of the existence of the Masters.
Having learnt of all these things, having as it were, acquired the theory of esoteric science, how is the candidate to translate that theory into practice? How is he personally to experience that of which he reads? He can achieve the perception of the astral plane by the use of autohypnosis and drugs; the method is simple, but the consequences are disastrous to the higher self. He can also bring the astral into manifestation on the physical plane by the use of magic. The knowledge of these methods, however, is carefully guarded and not easily obtained, neither may it safely be used by anyone except an Adept.
The way to attain personal knowledge of the higher worlds may easily be told, though it may not so easily be practised. The senses of the individuality can cognize these worlds; if therefore the higher aspects of man, the spiritual nature and the power of abstract thought, be cultivated until they have attained a considerable degree of development. and if the focus of consciousness be then shifted from the personality, the unit of incarnation, to the individuality, the unit of evolution, it will be found possible to further develop these aspects of the nature until the universe shall be apprehended in terms of abstract thought and spiritual intuition. The shift of the focus of consciousness is attained by shifting the focus of desire from the things of the senses to the things of the spirit. It is not enough that the will should be directed to a spiritual objective; a stage of development must be reached at which the spontaneous desires are also directed there. Many would-be initiates make the mistake of thinking that the will to initiation is sufficient, but this is not the case; the majority of the desires of the nature, both conscious and subconscious, must be turned away from the things of sense towards the things of spirit; and as the subconscious mind contains much that concerns the childhood of the race and tends towards matter in its densest forms, it is necessary to extend consciousness far into what is usually the territory of the subconsciousness in order to secure the assimilation of the instinctive desires to the aims of the spiritual nature.
In order to achieve this assimilation we must first know ourselves in our most primitive aspects, and then sublimate those aspects till they can be assimilated to the personality; for not until the personality has itself been integrated can it deliberately, of its own enlightened volition, seek the fulfilment of its life in the ideals of the individuality This is the apotheosis of the personality; it is for this that the hunger of the soul is for ever crying out, for it can find no satisfaction in the things of sense. Union with the divine aspect of the self, the God within, must precede awareness of the God of the Whole of which it is but a part. The spiritual level of man’s nature is but a circumscribed portion of the One Spirit, the All, the Noumenal aspect of manifestation. For that which is itself Noumenal, or an underlying actuality, there can be no satisfaction in that which is phenomenal, or of the nature of projected experience. The spark of the Divine Light, which is the nucleus of the reincarnating ego, or individuality must associate with its equals if it is to know companionship; the spiritual aspect of the herd instinct can only achieve satisfaction through union with Spirit; it has no abiding place in the world of phenomena, and if consciousness has ever been raised to the apprehension of spiritual realities apart from experiences in the world of form, it will never again accept anything as valid which has not a nucleus of such noumenal actuality. Such a reality, once experienced, bringing as it does, the complete satisfaction of life itself, not of any satiated appetite, forms the type of all future satisfaction and determines its validity. Should such an experience ever have taken place in the history of the incarnating ego, it will never be forgotten, but will be carried forward life after life and imprinted upon the subconsciousness of the personality, the unit of incarnation, until such time as evolution shall render it possible for that which is ultra-conscious to be made conscious.
The first initiation consists of the flash of cosmic consciousness wherein the ego sees with the eyes of the spirit instead of the eyes of the flesh. This is only achieved by exaltation of consciousness, and comes from within. But such an experience having been known, to reproduce it in any subsequent incarnation it is only necessary to link consciousness with subconsciousness by means of an association-chain in order to bring this particular aspect of subconscious content into conscious awareness. This is achieved by means of ritual initiation, and the symbolism of the ritual employed is designed to carry consciousness along the appropriate association-chain which shall end in the memory of the Light of Reality.
Ritual initiation can do no more than this, but it is sufficient; for in the Great Light, Masterhood is comprised. The developed psychic or fully trained magician may become an Adept upon all the planes of the cube of manifestation, but beyond lies something more, which has its affinities with that which, in relation to the solar universe, is unmanifest, being Cosmic. No one can be called an initiate who has not experienced cosmic consciousness. To pass through the degrees of the Greater Mysteries without it may mean no more than a psychic upheaval, the eyes being blinded by excess of light which consciousness possesses no symbol to interpret; on the other hand, the neophyte, if properly prepared, may see the Light behind the symbols and receive illumination.
If the preceding pages are to be understood, they must not be interpreted in their literal or verbal meaning. Those things which they are intended to describe have no words or images in the language to represent them. In order to arrive at their meaning the reader must interpret them by means of analogous experiences of his own. If he has no analogous experience, he will not receive the impression it is intended to convey, and will not unreasonably account these things foolishness. To such a one I can offer nothing; evolutionary time must do its work.
Dion Fortune – Esoteric Orders and Their Work, Ch. 14 (1928)