The goal of all major esoteric traditions and of all world religions is entry into a higher kingdom of nature, into the realm of the gods. This kingdom is known as the Fifth Kingdom, and one’s awareness and experience of its world constitute what is referred to as the superconscious experience. It has been described by all those who have had this extraordinary glimpse of another world, in ecstatic terms, as a state of boundless being and bliss in which one’s individual consciousness merges with the universal consciousness, with the Godhead.
It is a state of beingness and awareness that far surpasses one’s usual limited, narrow view of reality and transports one, for a brief moment, beyond the limits of time and space into another dimension.
The union of the self in man with the Self of the universe is called yoga, the yoking or joining together of the finite self with the Infinite Self, and the process or method for attaining this union is also called yoga. The name given by the Hindus to the highest state of consciousness is called Samadhi; the Zen Buddhists refer to it as Satori; in Taoism, it is known as the absolute Tao. Thomas Merton calls it transcendental unconscious, while the Quakers label it the Inner Light, and Gurdjieff calls it objective consciousness. Jung describes it as the process of individuation, and in Western metaphysical traditions, it is called the fifth state, cosmic consciousness, illumination, and the mystical or religious experience.
No matter what name is given to this phenomenon, the condition implies a state of awareness radically different from that of our ordinary normal waking consciousness . These terms are all descriptive of the merging or union of individual consciousness with that of a Greater Being and becoming one with Him.
When this occurs, there is really no loss of individuality or sense of annihilation, but rather an expansion into a greater beingness in which you discover that you are your finite self no longer, you are something far more glorious than you can ever imagine and that the loss of your finite self is really no loss at all. In fact, it is not, as is stated in the famous line, that the ‘dewdrop slips into the Shining Sea’, but rather that the dewdrop becomes the Shining Sea.
In order to achieve this extraordinary development in awareness and beingness, many disciplines and methods have been developed over the centuries, both by religion and by esoteric traditions known as mystery schools.
Only those who proved themselves worthy and who could be trusted were permitted to enter these schools and be given the keys with which to unlock the hidden potentials within, for the misuse of this information could lead to dire consequences, not only to themselves, but to others. Even the world’s great religions had information which was withheld from the masses and reserved for those few who had earned the right to have this knowledge.
The Mystery Schools
It is a little known fact that every ancient religion and philosophical system had an esoteric or secret teaching for the select few; esoteric has a two-fold meaning: knowledge held in secret, known only to a few and includes secrets concealed from mankind by nature, and the knowledge that comes from within. There was also an exoteric or public teaching for the masses. These ancient teachings, which are known as The Mysteries, dealt with the great Truths about the nature of Reality and of being and nonbeing. Among other things, the Mysteries included in its teachings the study of the origin of the cosmos, called Cosmo genesis, and the study of the origin of man, known as Anthropogenesis. Needless to say, these views differ somewhat from those introduced later by modern science and by present-day theology.
In Egypt. the initiated priests developed occult alphabets and secret rs Egypt. their pledged disciples to preserve their ancient wisdom. It is interesting to note that the Tarot cards which are so popular today are said to contain the key to the Egyptian mysteries. Even in the history of early Christianity, we find the inner teachings preserved for the initiated, while the husks, the outer vehicle, were given to the public.
To you’, said Christ, speaking to his disciples. ‘it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.’ (Mark 4:11) And in the Bible, what is recorded are parables of Jesus, but the ‘mysteries of the kingdom, are withheld. Today, the mystery schools are no longer in existence, and the worlds religions possess only a fraction of this information.
Whatever vestiges of such knowledge that remain in religious teachings have been distorted into a meaningless dogma and ritual which is little understood by the common man and which has only served to separate mankind to a greater extent than before. The separateness occurs because of the disagreements which have arisen in the understanding and interpretation of scriptures produced by individuals who have had the superconscious experience.
Those who have not had this experience would, of course, interpret it in terms of their level of understanding based on their own experiences in our limited three dimensional world. Unfortunately, all religions that are known to us in their church form are only pseudo-religions and present only a travesty of the great Truths. The question arises, then, if esoteric knowledge exists, where can it be found?
The answer, of course, is that the true science of spiritual development always lay in the hands of the Masters of the Wisdom who constitute the inner circle of humanity and who guide the evolution of mankind on this planet. All that Is possible is done by them to help man, but he must seek help.
Moreover, he must first understand that there is a knowledge that far surpasses all ordinary knowledge and that the only way to gain access to that knowledge is to seek it through contact with the Masters, and from deep within his own inner being through meditation. But man, when faced with the idea of a hidden knowledge that would change him from ordinary man into a god, largely ignores it, and those who do hear the call of the Pied Piper get lost in the cul-de-sac of psychism and pseudo-esotericism because they themselves do not know what they are looking for, and in order to receive, one must know what to look for.
Clearly, esoteric knowledge can be given only to those who seek it, for in order to acquire this knowledge and the power that accompanies it, one must go through many preparations, tests, and hard work.
BUILDING THE BRIDGEHEAD
The essence of spiritual development is that we need to build a bridgehead between the Soul and the personality to establish communication between the Soul and its lower vehicle. This bridgehead is called the Antakarana in Sanskrit and is described as a channel along which the energy of the Soul flows with ever increasing force into the energy vortices of the body known as chakras. In average man, only five per cent of the soul’s energies are available to him, but through the practice of meditation, he begins to establish a bridgehead, to build the Antakarana or Jacob’s ladder.
The Human Kingdom: This is very advanced in its spiritual development; some of the advanced elements of humanity are manifesting radioactivity, or what we call initiatory capacity. By this we mean that the advanced elements of the fourth kingdom are radiatory in that their head and heart centres are becoming highly active, and attract to them through groups, other human elements in the spiritualising process. The most advanced human initiates become Masters of the Wisdom, Initiates of the sixth and seventh degrees and eventually, Nirmanakayas.
This is a process which takes the advanced human elements into the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of Souls. whilst retaining a physical body. Such highly evolved humans begin to act within the kingdom of Souls whilst still in physical form. In so doing, they are treading the Path. In order to understand the extent of this spiritual process of treading the Path, it is very helpful to study what happens in the unfoldment of a flower.
If we had trodden the surface of the planet 70 million years ago. we would have observed jungles and vast expanses of green plants, all very appropriate to their star of development, but all of them green, and with no manifestation of radiation or spiritual psychosynthesis. There were no flowers anywhere to be seen.
One must imagine the extraordinary effect of the great spun of spiritual power that enabled some of the green plants to produce species capable of flowering. We ourselves may be compared to such a flowering entity. We are thrust as encapsulated Monads into the harsh soil of the planet Earth and we explore with our roots the elements of eanhly forms which are available to us for our expression.
We then seek other forms of expression, not in the objective world of the material but the inner and subjective world of spirit. We send pan of ourselves upwards into another realm, comparing, in this fashion, to the growth of the plumule part of the seed as it penetrates the world above the harsh surface of the Earth.
We liken this to the Antakarana which reaches inwardly to the lotus of the Soul, and through it, makes contact with the tremendous forces of the sun. In that inner world, we, like the plant, unfold special organs which enable us to accept the energy of the spiritual sun in new planes of endeavour, rather than the simple energies which are available to us in physical form.
We unfold spiritual leaves which accept the higher energies of photosynthesis, and eventually, we swell inwardly, and begin to unfold a bulb-like structure which is the manifestation of the Soul. Highly developed Souls continue to grow in their buds until the precious moment of initiation arises, when a spintual spun, again from the planet Venus, enables the individual bud to burst into flower.
The flowering of the human entity constitutes the final goal of treading the Path. Thus the Soul and its unfoldment is likened to the opening of a lotus bud. Such highly evolved beings radiate their energies to everyone and everything about them. This Is why we say that spirituality is the effort put into raising the consciousness of those around you: the consciousness of plant, animal and mineral elements, as well as the elements of the human kingdom.
This is why we are interested in the processes involved in the flowering of a plant. We too undergo the process of budding. We know what it is like to have stress placed upon us so that the condition becomes almost unbearable, relieved only by an extension of consciousness. When we look at the bud of a rose, we would see, if we could use a microscope to observe it, cells being torn into shreds by the bulging of the underlying structures; so too may the process of human spiritual unfoldment be likened to the opening of flowers which release their higher qualities of scent and colour to the surrounding world. The great occultist Rudolf Steiner described in minute detail how important it is to observe such processes in nature along with the rising and setting of the sun, in order to parallel such achievements with our own structures.
To illustrate the development of the four kingdoms of nature, a diagrammatic representation of the processes involved may be summarised as follows: An analogy may be drawn between the search of man into inner and outer space and his own flowering. In the case of the plant, the seed, which is thrust into the fertile soil, contains within it all the potentialities of its previous lives or antecedents.
When conditions are right, the seed will send out roots. The level of the ground is the barrier between inner and outer space—the hard earth and the subtler air and sunlight. All the time that the plant is searching with its roots for nutrition, it is growing upwards in search of a new dimension that will give it light energy.
Later, there is an unfoldment of itself as stems and leaves in the subtler (inner) realm of the atmosphere and the leaves begin to absorb a subtler more vibrant energy than that taken out of its seed and roots—the energy of sunlight. His Ring-Pass-Not (the circle, bounds or frontier beyond which an entity cannot go because of the limitations of its state of consciousness) also increases as he contacts dimensions of awareness not previously accessible to him.
The point of importance to remember is the upper and lower nature of the plant, so analogous to man and the interconnecting antakarana which has to be built by the plant to its flower and man to his soul.
The biology of spiritual development is concerned with the cultivation and watering of this human tree.
Cultivation is through exercises of discipline; watering is through instructions of initiates who give out the ancient teachings on how to develop the antakarana, and to stir the petals of the soul. As we enter the Age of Aquarius, we can perceive the true meaning of the symbol for the zodiacal Sign of Aquarius which depicts a man bearing a jug of water that is being poured forth, watering the tree of mankind.
A further analogy between man and the flowering plant can be made with regard to the chakras or lotuses located in the etheric tract along the spinal column. There are seven major centres, and although we are most familiar with the chakras that lie in the etheric sheath, the astral and mental sheaths also possess a set of seven chakras each.
The chakras that we are concerned with here are the ones lying along the etheric tract in the spinal column. Ordinarily they are not visible to the physical eye, but any particular centre can be seen clairvoyantly when that centre is activated. However, we need to have a correct understanding of what constitutes chakras or force centres.
Symbolically speaking, chakras are cosmic banks.
Every real effort that we make, every effort that has a right motive, whether it is successful or not, brings a deposit of some record inside these chakras. So when succeeding lives come, when we reincarnate, the qualities we have deposited in these chakras are quickly restored to us and we reach that same level of achievement that we had reached in the previous life. In each life, we start off with the rewards gained in previous lives, because every act of Atma, Buddhi and Manas (which represent the qualities of the Higher Triad: Will, Love-wisdom, and Active Intelligence) is a sparkling jewel placed in these cosmic banks. Likewise, in those lives that lie ahead, these cosmic banks are available to us.
When sufficient development has taken place in these chakras, man awakens to a new awareness of himself and of the world which was not present before the awakening and which is beyond the range of detection of his physical senses.
The chakras, which literally mean circles or wheels in Sanskrit, are connected to their physical counterparts, the endocrine glands and their associated nerve plexuses, through an extensive system of channels called nadis along which prana, cosmic energy, is conveyed from the centres to the organs of the physical body. It is prana which is responsible for the maintenance of life in the physical body. While oxygen and carbon are absorbed directly by the physical body through respiration, prana, is absorbed by the etheric body and channelled through the physical body by means of a system of nadis. Furthermore, while oxygen cannot be stored in the body, prana can be stored.