large statues outside the ruins of an ancient structure

By Cyrus Ryan

Secrets of Initiation

March 30, 2020

Information on initiation has been scattered, here and there, in numerous books on esoteric subjects. Definitions are given and, in some cases, imaginative ideas of some vague ceremony are pictured. To start, let’s use the following succinct definition of initiation and work from there, “Initiation is an expansion of consciousness which leads to a growing recognition of the inner realities” (1). This definition gives a general indication of possible results one should expect after undergoing an initiation. What’s missing, and what I want to answer, is that very little information, or real guidance has been given out on the actual work, and efforts involved on navigating the path of initiation in any esoteric books. Hints are only given, here and there.

The real factors of initiation remain a mystery, to be found out only through the efforts of each aspiring disciple, as they make progress, step-by-step on the path. “It must be remembered from the start that no disciple can pass through the initiatory experience unless he is a soul-infused individual and is consciously aware on soul levels of the various happenings, possibilities, undertakings and implications.”(2) The first important point, is that initiation is not a personal or individual event. Just because an aspirant has worked hard on their own, and seems to be making some progress, doesn’t mean they are ready for initiation. Initiation involves the work of an esoteric school, and thus involves the personnel of that school. There are a number of factors that have to be considered; first, and most importantly, there are two Masters of Wisdom, from the school, who sponsor the disciple for the Path of Initiation. “In India, the candidate for the 3rd degree of initiation had 2 gurus”. (3)

The next point is that the disciple must have some karma with at least one of the Masters who is the sponsor. “The choice of a pupil by a Master is governed by past karma and by old association”. (4) Therefore, it is most important to have a link with the Masters. Why 2 Masters? The Master keeps a careful eye on the aspiring initiate, both protecting, inspiring, and energizing. This of course is from the inner planes. “He superintends the work of the pupil on different planes and makes records of the extent of the work accomplished, and the far-reaching effect of the spoken word as enunciated by the pupil.” (5) Initially, the disciple may not realize this, but eventually they will become aware of it. Sometimes, the Master is called away on important Hierarchical business, and must withdraw temporarily from watching the applicant. This is when, the other Master steps in, temporarily, to maintain the level of energy and protection of the aspiring disciple. If the applicant is not safeguarded, when one of the Masters withdraws temporarily, negative forces could jump in, as there will be an occult vacuum created, thus another Master takes up the slack, so to speak.

The third point, and more important than many assume, is that an applicant to the path of initiation must have some value, esoterically speaking, to the Masters. The Masters looks for certain qualities in an individual before they direct his/her footsteps, both in character, and potential to serve the Master’s ashram. That’s one of the determinations for what’s called, the Probationary Path, which in reality is a proving ground. Even as a probationer, the aspirant comes under heightened energy levels which stimulates the overall personality as well as the soul. It is in the final stages of the probationary path, that the aspirant learns to awaken a ‘center of awareness’ and experiences their ‘Essential Nature’ or the soul in-incarnation, the reflection of the Soul in physical incarnation. This is a very difficult period of great struggle for the aspirant, and we are dealing here with only those who have passed the first initiation. “Periods of search, periods of pain, periods of detachment, periods of revelation producing points of fusion, points of tension and points of energy projection – such is the story of the Path of Initiation.” (6). The sincere aspirant who is dedicated to the Work, and has achieved a level of detachment from the vicissitudes of the personality, and perseveres in their discipline under all kinds of circumstances, has generally past the first initiation. If they come to the esoteric path at a young age, then they had past the 1st initiation in a previous life. Also, they have overcome, or worked out, most of their negative karma. Thus, early on, in their present life, they pick up from where they left off, continuing the work towards the 2nd initiation, which, in some cases, can take several lives.

Next, the Masters are not interested in one’s personality, but in the degree of soul alignment and the soul’s control over the personality. A coordinated, evolved personality plays an important role in the overall process. Applicants, in the West, fulfill social responsibilities, family obligations, and have some form of a profession. This shows the watching Master, that the applicant can maintain a disciplined life-style, recognizes the place of social responsibility, and has a potential for service. I’m not talking about those few advanced souls born in India, or the Himalayas, and are guided to a solitary life of a hermit for some particular greater purpose. We are looking at initiation today within the modern matrix of our fast-paced, techno-society.

A very important point…who is it that achieves initiation? My focus here is not on those low-level, outer ritualized initiation ceremonies of various organizations, but the real initiations that occur on the inner planes. The personality does not undergo initiation. It is the awakened soul in-incarnation, the Essential Nature, which is aligned to the Soul on its own plane, the higher mental, that undergoes initiation. “Initiation is a process whereby the spiritual man within the personality becomes aware of himself as the soul, with soul powers, soul relationships, and soul purpose.” (7) This awakened soul in-incarnation (spiritual man) uses the purified personality as a means to serve in the outer world. One must be able to consciously center their awareness within the soul in-incarnation, the Essential Nature, that individualized feeling of ‘I am’, that has achieved a degree of separation from the personality, all this must become real, not some intellectual reasoning, before one enters on the path of initiation. This is a very esoteric point, and to this date, there is very little literature on it. There are though, hints or cloaked imagery in certain occult writings, that talk about this very esoteric point, but unless you’re ready, such points are hard to grasp. “In all the teaching given to the aspirant and to the disciple in the early stages of their training, the emphasis has been upon the “point of light” which must be discovered, brought into full illumination, and then so used that the one in whom the light shines becomes a light-bearer in a dark world.” (8) The esoteric idea of the Essential Nature, its location, how to center in it, and how to differentiate, essence and personality, is the golden key that when turned, leads to the conscious path of initiation. “The center must be found to a considerable degree before he can pass on to the more advanced grades and work in the second school.” (9) Too many who dream of initiation, just read and discuss occult literature, remaining in their heads, spiritually stagnant, holding on to ideas, but not following through with the needed disciplines.

Another fact is that initiation today is a ‘process’ that involves several minor initiations culminating in a major initiation. The disciple is tested continually. Such tests can occur naturally or artificially. Tests that occur naturally are the result of karma. Tests that occur artificially, are created by one’s teacher or Master based on their understanding of the student’s weaknesses that must be faced, time and time again, until such weaknesses or attachments are overcome. “These tests are applied when the soul grips the personality and the fire of divine love destroys the loves and desires of the integrated personality.” (10) The path of initiation is a Herculean task that demands a one hundred percent constant effort from the applicant. Thus, the legend of Hercules illustrates in story form, the process of initiation, as he passes through various tests, proving himself worthy of each greater level of initiation. The process of initiation is, in fact, a thorough means of purification of the lower vehicles, to raise one’s vibration to a much higher note, esoterically, to a higher sub-plane. The purpose of this, is to make it easier for the Master to communicate with the would-be initiate. The Master cannot come close if the vibration of the student is too disharmonious. So, on the probationary path, the student is actually kept outside the inner ashram until the time comes when a higher, purer, vibration is achieved. In myriad cases this takes many lives. It is during this period of probation, that the student suffers the most, as so much is extracted from the personality of the student. This is hinted at in the Bhagavad Gita in the chapter, Hesitancy and Despondency of Arjuna, which discusses Arjuna’s indecision to battle the opposing forces. Why is Arjuna hesitant? Arjuna, who represents the ideal disciple, becomes despondent when faced with the task of battle, as he points out that the opposing forces are made up of many of his relatives, teachers, and friends. He laments to his charioteer, Krishna, this fact, and questions why he must fight them. The reason is that the opposing forces represent different aspects or personality traits that must be transformed. These personality traits have to die. The idea that Arjuna has to battle friends, relatives, and even teachers, illustrates the fact, that in this transmutation process of initiation, it is not only the removing of the negative facets of the personality that is required, but also, patterned habitual behavior, thoughts, and past ideas or philosophies that one still clings to. These are thought-forms we are comfortable with, they are part of us, thus they are very difficult to give up. They are what keeps us asleep and makes us feel self-satisfied. This is the most difficult part. This is the transformation of the entire personality that Arjuna is faced with. That’s the battle of Kurukshetra, that must be won in order to achieve initiation.

The fact that Lord Krishna is helping Arjuna, infers that the path of initiation is much more involved, and even goes beyond the Master. Earlier on, I mentioned that two Masters watch over the initiate in training. But the Master is not there to hold the disciples’ hand. They watch from a distance, energizing and inspiring direction where needed. It is up to the aspirant, now a disciple, to be able to recognize the note of the Master, and any direction given. The Master is the key director, for it the Master who connects the disciple with his ‘ishtadevata’ or ‘yidam’, the deity best suited, exemplifying the spiritual path for that disciple. In fact, what the Master is really doing is connecting the disciple with, what’s esoterically called, the “flame of the Logos”. The deity, whom ever it may be, is the energy stream that when connected to the disciple, is what purifies and transforms the astral body and the mind. “…Become a Strotapatti in this birth. The Siddhis of perfection may loom far, far away; but the first step is taken, the stream is entered”. (11) Aspirants as they make efforts along the path may have an insight into a deity that they feel some form of devotion towards, and they may start some sadhana of bhakti towards that deity. This is all very good, but it is not the same as when a Master connects you, actually your Soul, to the deity. There is a vast difference between the two. Then the disciple has to build a relationship with the deity, a point that is generally kept secret as its part of the initiation process. A relationship with a deity, like a relationship with a close friend, lover or spouse, that evolves over time. Such a relationship is from one’s soul to the deity. It is not a personality relationship. “The word “sanctification,” as you know, in the basic sense signifies the complete surrender of the whole being to one object, the Lord or Ruler. It means the giving wholly to the one the devotee aspires to.” (12) This quote is very veiled as its esoteric import is pointing to, and giving inner directions. The other point is the Master DK uses the word, ‘devotee’. This word has to be understood in a different way. He is hinting at the Sanskrit word, ‘bhakti’. Many who read Theosophical esoteric literature actually have an abhorrence to this term. It brings to mind, some modern Hari Krishna devotees dancing on some street corner. My teacher, a long time Theosophist, was the same. It was fascinating to watch his transformation, and embrace ‘bhakti’ as his awakening went deeper and deeper. For the sake of the New Age, let us create a new definition for a ‘bhakti’, seeing it as a synthesis of both the knowledge aspect (jnana) and the quality of devotion (bhakti). The beauty of ‘bhakti’ is in the surrendering of the little personality ‘I’, in order to align to the deity. From the knowledge aspect, it takes an awakened inner perception (samjna) to do this. The intellect is then used as a means to express your inner insights into loving service to humanity. Thus, you must have achieved a focused level of real soul alignment before such an event, being connected to one’s own deity, will occur. The following is an actual, edited, description of an initiation event that I personally went through many years ago. In fact, when it happened, although it was a minor initiation, it flung opened the door to new realizations, direction, and much greater knowledge, preparing me for what was to come next.

“I arrived in Calcutta and made my way to the shrine of Sri Ramakrishna. Belur Math was built after his final Maha-Samadhi, the death of Sri Ramakrishna. I went to the main office to find out about staying in one of the many rooms there. Immediately they told me it was impossible because they didn’t know me. So, I just sat down on the floor of the office and began to meditate. Most of the office staff were monks and they started to tell me to stop meditating and leave. I didn’t budge. Eventually, a manager monk showed up, and he politely asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to stay there for a night as my teacher had suggested and meditate there. Again, the answer was, no. So, I closed my eyes, and started meditating again. He left the room, but came back, telling me to talk to the head monk. We left his office and he led me across to the far side of the compound, pointed to a bench on a porch of one of the resident buildings and told me to sit there and wait. I continued my meditation. At one point during the afternoon meditation session, my individualized conscious awareness felt lifted up into a serene ‘blueness’ of peace and a deep stillness. For a short time, I was just a point of awareness without body consciousness and no outward sensations. In this heightened state of awareness (samadhi), I experienced a voiceless voice that told me that I’m Buddhist, aligned to Avalokiteshvara and I should follow that path. After this experience, I felt like I was walking on air. My burning question of which path to follow had been answered. The serene peace and stillness lingered for a while. Then, back in my normal consciousness, I wondered what happened to the meeting with the head monk.” (13)

In the meditative state of samadhi, as in the above story, knowledge is passed telepathically, from mind to mind. Words are not used, its more an insight, like a flash of lightning, but within that flash of insight, there is an entire view or directions embedded there. The questioning mind is superseded, thus there is no doubt of what is transpiring. Returning to normal consciousness, it’s important to maintain your soul alignment to digest the experience and directions given, reaching a deeper understanding that will grow within you. It is at this point; one has a choice to accept the directions or not. If the directions are accepted wholeheartedly and sincerely, unfoldment, guidance, and protection will proceed with less hindrances, and other events will occur to help in your spiritual progress to the next step in the initiation process.

As I mentioned, a conscious relationship has to be established with the deity the Master has connected you to. Deities, like humans, have different characteristics. The energy/shakti of some deities is very ‘yang’, powerful, while others are gentle, their energy permeates through your bodies like a gentle wave that washes over you, cooling you, as you lie on the sand in shallow water. When a relationship has developed between the disciple and a deity, occult obedience is the first rule that must, at all costs, be understood. “The narrow path, which all disciples have to tread, requires obedience to the ancient rules for disciples.” (14) For instance, during some meditation you find yourself faced with a dilemma and ask your ‘Ishtadevata’ the deity for guidance. You recognize the flashing forth of an answer, but the answer is not what you expected. In fact, you find the application or directions you’ve received makes you feel uncomfortable, and you sense difficulties. This is where ‘occult obedience’, and ‘viveka’ or a spiritual inner discrimination comes into play. That which feels uncomfortable is the personality, not your Essential Nature. You stand aside from the personality, and obey the deity. A deity can see possibilities from the higher plane of awareness and “knows”. If you decide not to follow the instructions received from the deity, the deity will pull away, and become distant from you immediately. Deities are not sentimental. All this is part of the process of initiation, and based on occult law. The Master watches all one’s efforts and choices, and can tell whether a disciple is trustworthy, who will serve in the work of the Hierarchy.

As you awaken, and esoteric experience opens the door to illumined knowledge, you realize the plight of humanity and their desperation for healing and peace. Then compassion awakens of itself, from your inner most being, blossoming forth, awakening a deeper inner commitment to the Great Work with all that it entails. Thus, now you enter onto the path of the Bodhisattva, or the Path of Service, as part of the initiation you are going through. Depending on your karma, and spiritual destiny, you maybe given assignments from your Master as part of your training. Such assignments may not be what you expected.

There’s an unusual saying, “In order to achieve liberation, one has to incarnate in the past”. I don’t know the exact source of this saying, except that my teacher taught me about its meaning. HPB mentions, “an initiate, connected directly with the Mysteries, and walking, as all other Neophytes, before and after him (Narada) had to walk, in “the pit among the thorns”,as the suffering victim made to descend there into…a mystery truly!” (15) This is a very enigmatic esoteric phrase but it says volumes for those that can see. Our past lives are a mystery. To incarnate in the past means to open the door to the past and peer into those hidden mysteries of one’s own evolution. As you make progress on the path of initiation, slowly, step-by-step, many aspects of one’s past lives start to become perceptible. There are two sides to this facet of the path; first, insight into the spiritual teachings, which includes disciplines, that you have previously undertaken, and secondly, negative hindrances that lay latent in the subconscious that have been created through improper personality activity over many lives. These forces create our ‘kama-rupas’ (desire body). A ‘kama-rupa’ is created in each life, and in some cases dissolves after death. But there are some lives, in our countless incarnations, where certain activities, especially related to the occult, cause the kama-rupa substance to become more substantial. Thus, on the path of initiation, when your inner eye opens, you see that there are numerous kama-rupas. Each one has to be dissolved through an occult process. It requires a 5th Ray and 1st Ray knowledge to do this. The work of dissolving the ‘kama-rupas’ is the secret process of initiation. It is the sum-total of these ‘kama-rupas’ that make up the Dweller of the Threshold This is why it’s called ‘liberation’; you are liberating yourself from all the past (karma) that you have accumulated over countless lies. All this unfolds as you continue your occult meditation discipline, which becomes afire, dynamic, and one-pointed. At an advanced stage on the path of initiation, a very esoteric event occurs, a separation, when the Essential Nature separates from the personality, and the ‘dark side’ or what is called in the occult, the Dweller on the Threshold awakens, and it also separates from the personality, yet they are all still linked together by threads of subtle substance. Initially, this event can be very uncomfortable, the thorns in the above quote. Your blind, and do not know what’s happening, you feel like you’re falling into the abyss. Soon you become aware of the constant motion of forces within you, that are impacting on you. It is through this process that one develops real occult discrimination (viveka), thus understanding slowly grows, transpiring into experiential knowledge. Through trial and error, the disciple learns how to detach, and go deeper into the Essential Nature, feeling the sense of I-ness there, feeling the sense of the ‘eternal’. You learn, because of the process of separation, that when you can see the fiendish dweller, then you are centered, aligned to the soul, the problem is when you cannot see it. First, you have to experience it, then know it, detach from it, and finally, learn the methods of dissolving it. This is when you really enter into the esoteric work. You have awakened the inner fire and now know how to manipulate matter consciously, applying the ancient knowledge of the Divine ‘astras’ (weapons) as Arjuna did, to defeat the foe. At this point you understand the effectiveness, and real meaning of mantra, and how the energy of a deity can be used to overcome ancient tendencies and transform your entire nature. I have given some glimpses into the process of initiation. Many things I cannot write about. Remember, Initiates are made, not born!


  1. Alice A. Bailey, Externalization of the Hierarchy, Lucis Publishing, NY 1957, 136
  2. Alice A. Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, Lucis Publishing, NY, 1960, 662
  3. Helena P. Blavatsky, Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. 14, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1966, 31
  4. Alice A. Bailey, Letters on Occult Meditation, Lucis Publishing, NY, 1922, 274
  5. IBID, pg. 275
  6. Alice A. Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, Lucis Publishing, NY, 1960, 38
  7. Ibid, pg. 341
  8. Ibid, pg. 49
  9. Alice A. Bailey, Letters on Occult Meditation, Lucis Publishing, NY, 1922, 312
  10. Alice A. Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, Lucis Publishing, 1960, 39
  11. Helena P. Blavatsky, Voice of the Silence, Theosophical Publishing, 1960, 40
  12. Alice A. Bailey, Letters on Occult Meditation, Lucis Publishing, NY, 1922, 283
  13. Cyrus Ryan; Living on the Inner Edge, Axis Mundi, UK, 2018, 36
  14. Alice A. Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Vol1, Lucis Publishing, NY,1944, 21
  15. Helena P Blavatsky, Blavatsky Collective Writings, Vol.14, 1966, 38

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