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|Discipleship in the New Age I - The Six Stages of Discipleship - Part VI|
Stage III - Accepted Discipleship
It is not my intention in this short series of Instructions to deal with the Stage of Accepted Discipleship. Much has been written about this stage. I have covered every practical angle in my many books and there is nothing to be gained by duplication. The books on discipleship put out by the Theosophical Society adequately cover the Probationary Path; I have dealt in detail with the Path of Discipleship.
The angle of the contacts which become possible upon the Path of Accepted Discipleship are well known but cannot be described in too much detail. They vary according to person, and ray. I would only ask you to have these modes of approach in mind, remembering that they do occur and occur in varying degrees of clarity and at various stages upon the Path. They are as you know:
The first three are more usually the experience of the probationary disciple. The last two are undergone by the accepted disciple. They have their astral or lower psychic counterparts. They are, in this case, not all glamor and illusion and are not basically reprehensible, for they are - in reality - the seed or guarantee of future inevitable experiences upon the Way. People do see thought-forms of the Masters, for those thought-forms exist; they do receive symbolic teachings upon the astral plane or in the dream states. Beginners and the inexperienced are then apt to do one of two things: over-estimate the experience and believe it to indicate a high spiritual development; they begin to lean upon the experience and to substitute this astral happening for the future reality or they dismiss it as undesirable lower psychism, forgetting that so-called lower psychism is only so when the interpretation and the use of the experience is at fault. It is the task of the accepted disciple to aid in the interpreting, to indicate direction and to point out the significance of the experience to the neophyte. Workers in the spiritual field should bear this carefully in mind and remember that - as a result of the war, of tension and of aspiration towards the New Age - these dreams and visions, these episodes of symbolic teaching, these contacts with thought-forms will steadily increase and are indicative of growth and of expansion. Undirected, unexplained and misinterpreted or laughed down and ridiculed, they can greatly hinder and can be forced to descend into the category of true lower psychism; rightly interpreted and explained, they can constitute a series of graded revelations upon the Way to light; they exist then as guarantees of future knowledge and as signposts of a relative achievement. But they are not the reality when astrally focused.
Disciples need to bear in mind always that they grow by the answering of their own questions; the task of the Master is not to answer questions which, given a little time or thought, the disciple could answer himself, but to suggest or throw into the disciple's mind the type of question which warrants his thought and then to stimulate his abstract mind so that he can successfully find the answer.
You can see, therefore, how important this entire problem of questions can be and how, in a Master's Ashram or group,  the responsiveness of the membership to the questions, registered either by the individual disciple or by the group as a whole, and the answering of these questions has a conditioning effect upon the group. It is here the Master's particular work comes in - the arousing of the Ashram to the asking of those questions which will lead to revelation. A Master has always two things to bear in mind: the group condition which is dependent upon the aggregated vibration or note of all the members of the Ashram, insofar as they work together, and, secondly, the period in which the group is functioning. To this must be added the total responsiveness of the entire Ashram. One of the difficulties confronting all ashrams (viewing them as wholes) is to absorb new members and disciples, either singly or in groups. One question that necessarily arises is: How can a group within an Ashram (constituted of relatively new disciples and beginners on the Path of Accepted Discipleship) become increasingly sensitive to the vibration of the Ashram as a whole and to the Master of the Ashram?
This question in reality embodies the major problem existent between the personality and the soul, between the Master and the disciple and between humanity and the Hierarchy. It is basically a question of registering essential unity and the cessation of separateness. Disciples in their consciousness have to learn to avoid differentiating between aspects of the Ashram, inner and outer, and between the few Ashram members whom they may know and recognize, and the vast number who remain unknown to them. An Ashram is one group or band of disciples, initiates of various degrees, world disciples and neophytes at the very beginning of the Way of discipleship. Disciples must not think in terms of different Ashrams but in terms of the Ashram as a whole.
The key to this realization, little as you may think it, is Intensity. Intensity, or working from a point of tension, brings in the flood-tide of revelation, and it is then possible for a disciple to learn in one short day what might otherwise take months and even years to learn. Tension, when focused rightly, is the great releasing power. So many disciples focus tension wrongly and release energy in the wrong direction and (if I might so inadequately express it) from the wrong location. 
Right tension is brought about first by correct orientation; this necessitates a true sense of values and freedom from those minor preoccupations which produce extension instead of tension. If you are (to give a very usual illustration) preoccupied with your physical condition, you will not experience the tension which will make you a magnetic center of power and love; if you are preoccupied with the failures of other people or with their ideas about you, you will again fail to experience the tension which releases. You would find it of value to discover where your "extensions" are and then retreat inward to the point of tension from which you can consciously and effectively direct soul energy.
This is the true esoteric work. The majority of disciples are not even 6o per cent effective because their points of tension are scattered all over the personality and are not focused where the point of individual tension should be. Each has to discover that point of spiritual tension for himself. The reason that disciples are not sensitive to the Master, to the life of the Ashram and to each other is that they are extended and not tense; they are working and living on the periphery of consciousness and not at the center. Their service, therefore, is partial; their consecration is weak and they are overwhelmed by inertia, by lack of interest in others and by many preoccupations with the form side of life.
One more question might here be considered, dealing with a phrase which I have deliberately used several times in these talks: What is the distinction between love and the will-to-love? It is one which constantly is asked in the early stages of the path of discipleship. It is a most revealing question and is based on a sense of individual need and also on group need. It indicates also a penetrating analysis which has carried the questioner to the point where he knows the difference between theory, plus effort, and a spontaneous demonstration of that which is.
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