Stages of the way
In this diagram the Way is conceived in accordance with a gamut that goes from DO to DO and so forms an octave. The intervals between DO and SI, and between FA and MI, as well as that between DO and SI of the following octave, are the three Thresholds. Let us pass now to commentaries on the ten stages of this diagram.
The space to the left of the first Threshold represents exterior life, characterized by anarchy of the three centers of the Personality. Exact and precise discernment between “A” and “B” influences creates the embryo of the magnetic center. Under the influence of the latter, the seeker is drawn towards the first Threshold.
Having reached this point, man has entered a path. He is placed face to face with Life: his own life, with its own soluble and insoluble problems.
This is his first esoteric test. This test consists of a general reassessment of values. The results obtained depend upon the objectivity and courage brought to the task. One must exert a conscious effort upon oneself so as not to 'dodge the issue' or lie to oneself during this reevaluation. One must consider and analyze those about one, face facts and attribute their intrinsic value to them without compromise or pity for oneself or others. One must, naturally, keep the results of this re-evaluation to oneself.
This done, one must draw certain conclusions. Is one losing interest in exterior life, which unfolds exclusively under the sway of factors of influence “A”, and to what extent? Is the center of gravity of the Personality being displaced towards the magnetic center? Is a real emphasis being given to it? (Fig. 20).
At this time, a choice must be made. It would be better to withdraw before crossing the first Threshold than, having cut oneself off from the region of bourgeois happiness, to wish toregain it later. The Way is a one-way street. After the Threshold there is onlyone option: either to progress on the Way or to fall. From now on, any returnto the original state will be forbidden. If the magnetic center is pure and sufficiently firm, a man of influence “C” (Fig. 20) appears: the first Threshold will be crossed under his direction.
The first Threshold crossed, a link in the chain of esoteric influence will have been forged. Becoming one of the faithful, the catechumen is saved in hope.Yet he will still remain as he was before. All the conscious efforts he has made have allowed him to cross the Threshold. This is an enormous step forward. But the sincere desire to get out of exterior life, which inspired the crossing, is not in itself enough to free him from all “A” influences.
On the other side of the Threshold, mesoteric work will unfold before someone who has reached the note SI. He must be solidly established in this state, and facing forward, as 'Whoever puts his hand to the plough, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.'The task for the note SI, is for every disciple to go back carefully through the film of his life, so as to reach a double result:
— To distinguish objectively, as far as is possible for him at this phase of his evolution, between permanent, eternal elements and temporary, karmic ones;
— To stimulate within himself, with the help of this analysis, a strong desire to cross the second Threshold.
The strength of this desire, and the firmness of his decision, are the only measures of success. This is why the disciple should attach particular importance to work at the note SI of the Way. This is all the more so because this note is short. It is, in fact, only a half tone.
Before the first Threshold, man must be aware of his attitude towards exterior life in general. This threshold crossed, he must take as objective not this external life, with all its illusions, but instead, the film of his own life.
FOURTH, FIFTH AND SIXTH STAGES
These correspond to the three notes LA, SOL, and FA of the Way. Properly speaking these, with the note SI, form the path of Access tothe Way.
This phase, including the note SI, presents itself as a Staircase that man has to climb (cf. Chapter XV, p. 146).
This esoteric staircase has a peculiarity which we must keep in our minds. It is not possible for us to stay on a particular step indefinitely. After a specified delay, sufficient for him to fulfill the task required from him by the note in force, the step will give way.
During evolution through the notes LA, SOL and FA, the faithful, climbing the Staircase step after step, will have the following tasks to do:
— note LA — to make the Personality grow to its fullest possible extent;
— note SOL — to develop it;
— note FA — to balance the three lower centers by replacing the mechanical ties between them with conscious ties from each center to the magnetic center, to which the lower centers will then be subordinated.
Climbing the Staircase in this way, beginning from the note SI and passing notes LA and SOL, the faithful will reach the note FA. By accomplishing the task which has been described for this note, he will become man 4.
The eliminated morality will be replaced inside him by the action of his conscience, the embryonic expression of the consciousness of the real “I”.
The latter's radiance will penetrate, bit by bit, through the magnetic center to the whole Personality of the seeker.
It is to be noted that man 4 remains in several ways an exterior man; and he is still mortal. But he is ready to cross the second Threshold, beyond which, safely sheltered from the “A” influences and from the Law of Accident, the Way begins in its true sense.
Once having reached this degree, the disciple becomes a man of influence “C” (Fig. 20).
One must never lose sight of the fact that everything man does, he does imperfectly. Theoretically, man 4, by the time the note FA is resounding fully, should already be absolute master of himself. The growth and the development of his Personality should have been pushed to their utmost limits. If this were really the case, the absorption of the lower emotional center by the magnetic center would have occurred in profound joy. But this only happens rarely. This is because man, everywhere and always late, does not fully succeed in accomplishing his task at each step of the Staircase.
As the time allowed for him to finish his work on each step is limited, he is obliged, from fear of a fall, to pass to the next step while still dragging behind him a part, sometimes a large part, of his karmic debt.
This is allowed, but only on condition that his purification is completed at the note FA.
Having reached the first Threshold, the catechumen has been placed facing 'life'. Having reached the second Threshold, he is placed face to face with himself.
In other words, he will see his Personality in its ensemble and in every detail. In the same way, he will perceive all the results of his Karma, as well as all the distortions they have provoked in his being, in particular, the distortion that comes from hypocrisy towards oneself, and from the lies we tell ourselves. These are the most difficult elements to constate. Consequently they are the most difficult to neutralize.This is the second great test.
For the first time in his life, he will see himself objectively, as he is, with no make-up, without the least justification or compromise, and with no possibility of evasion.
For the just, this ordeal is full of ineffable joy. To him it will be like the light of dawn. For the unjust—and this is the general case—this vision of oneself seems terrifying. Perfect equilibrium of the Personality cannot be attained except by
complete neutralization of all karmic consequences. Someone who aspires to liberation, although of good faith, cannot appreciate the nature and importance of this. Born in sin, he can—and in practice does—consider certain aspects of that Karma as being human and thus normal.
Faced with the second Threshold, everything that has been learned mechanically
loses its force; all the buffers, all the auto-tranquillizers, must be broken and thrown away. All debts must be paid in the proper coin. At the same time, the faithful has to rid himself of those illusory and imaginary duties which sometimes acquire a hypnotic force, and to which a human being attaches real value.
This confrontation with oneself generally takes a dramatic course because of the karmic debt which each one of us carries. But this is inevitable.
Man must now take stock of all his mental24 possessions, since until this time the greatest part of these possessions were outside his field of observation, somewhere in the archives of his sub consciousness. He will be surprised, when constating the contents of that sub consciousness, just what he may discover in there; traces of heroic acts, and perhaps of the most ignoble crimes as well.
If he runs away from this monster—in which he must recognize himself — this will be the fall, full of the worst dangers. His attitude must be one of attack. Then, the Personality-monster will give way. At that moment, man will become master of himself. It will be the consecration of the position represented by figure 56.
This moment is decisive. From now on, strengthened by the Victory won, the man's task will be to transfigure his Personality. He should convey to it an image of radiant Beauty. In the language of the Tradition, we can say that at this time the Betrothed is adorned with her bridal gown.
This done, the Betrothed of Christ will be ready to meet the Bridegroom. With the crossing of the second Threshold, the developed and harmonized Personality will be born. This is the second Birth, analogous to physical birth from every point of view. It passes through the same phases. The Doctrine describes detailed parallels between the two, which help the disciple and his master to control the order of this evolution. The book by Nicodemus the Hagiorite called Unseen Warfare contains one of the best descriptions of this.
Having crossed the second Threshold, the Personality unites itself with the real “I”. Its provisional “I”, which has not been destroyed but has been developed to
its limit, will for evermore be one with the real “I”.: Man 4 then becomes man 5.
This indissoluble union forms the Individuality. It is from this moment that man really exists. He is, and only at this moment will he be able to say with certainty that he is happy to have been born. The experiment so often repeated has ended with success.
The human Personality can have three different states, analogous to the three states of matter. Before the first Threshold, the “I” of the Personality is in the solid state. That is to say that “molecular” forces of attraction in it prevail over centrifugal forces.
Psychologically, this state is characterized by egotism: all for me. In this solid state, man can understand nobody. In certain cases, where he is as hard as steel—
cases which are relatively rare, it is true—he thinks he is always in the right and
attributes his failures to others or to 'accidents'. He is sure of himself. Then, after reaching the. first Threshold, the seeker is no longer found in the solid state, because he no longer believes in the absolute value of “A” influences.
He will already have had some doubts when he perceived the existence of “B”influences and started to distinguish them from others. Having reached the first Threshold, he is no longer hard, he is already malleable.
By the work between the two Thresholds, the mental “I” becomes more and more supple, becoming liquid at the note FA. In the same way, as a physical liquid is characterized by the faculty of taking the form of a container, so the liquid mentality is capable of understanding others as itself, in taking their form. In the current language, we describe the state of such a man by the expression “open minded”.
After crossing the second Threshold, man 4, who has now become man 5, acquires a gaseous mental state — penetrating everything and permitting him to
understand all beings and all things.
EIGHTH, NINTH, AND TENTH STAGES
After the second Threshold, the true Way begins. This consists of three sections, seen as the notes MI, RE and DO. Under the aegis of the note MI, the interior man enters the higher level of esoteric teaching at the eighth stage. He is now obliged to start teaching others. It is while teaching that he acquires new faculties corresponding to particular elements of his Individuality. In the terminology of St Paul, these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
At this stage man becomes a master, seen from below, but seen from above he has the title of assistant. The first new basic faculty—common to all Individualities, and developed all along the stages MI and RE — is an aptitude for spontaneously distinguishing the true from the false. This aptitude will be the distinguishing sign of the new man in the Cycle of the Holy Spirit.
On the next stage, the ninth, placed under the aegis of the note RE, man 5, after having acquired the new faculties that correspond to his Individuality, develops them until he gives them their integral expression. He thus acquires Consciousness, which manifests in him by the medium of the higher intellectual center, acting through the higher emotional center. This done, he will become man 6.
The tenth stage, last step of the Way, is where man 6 becomes man 7. This is characterized by the consecration of the results obtained. This is the baptism by Fire and by the Spirit. Jesus said: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled.”
This consecration is produced by the sublimation of sex. Thus the circle closes itself. Each manifestation of life starts by a sexual act; at the end of the cycle, the activity of the sexual center is manifested once more, but on a higher level, that of the higher centers, the level to which—by its nature— this center belongs.