The third initiation: transfiguration
You will remember that, in preparation for the first initiation, the 'sins of the flesh' such as lust, greed and gluttony have to be fairly well conquered so that the higher nature has a high degree of control over the physical body. And that, in preparation for the second initiation, the astral body (meaning the emotional nature) has to be largely mastered, with serenity replacing such emotions as fear, hostility and guilt ---- emotions which have held sway over that previously stormy, watery astral body for so many lives.
Now, in preparation for the third initiation of the Transfiguration, the mind also has to come under the control and direction of the higher nature so that, by the time we have undergone the third initiation, the Soul will have a large degree of mastery over the whole lower self ---- physical, astral-emotional and lower mental. As you can imagine, however, this is not achieved without a fierce struggle ---- between the second and third initiations ---- to overcome 'illusion', just as there has been a hard struggle with 'glamour' between the first and second initiations. What is illusion anyway? It has been described as glamour on the mental plane. But more precisely, illusion is distortion of reality on the mental plane (the realm of thinking), just as glamour is distortion of reality on the astral plane ---- the playground of the emotions. One example of such a distortion or illusion in our thinking is that which leads to pride. Pride is a mental condition in which the lower, separative mind falsely assumes a position or claim of superiority over others ---- at least over some others.
Now it seems that on the lower level of development we may need some pride to help us overcome our feelings of inferiority; that is, to bolster our weak sense of self-esteem. Indeed, as personalities, we may be further up the ladder than some persons are, and certainly we are not as advanced as some others. But however helpful this illusion of pride might seem to be on the lower rungs of the ladder, by the time we approach the high altitude of Transfiguration, we must come to realize that we are not really personalities at all, but the true Self and part of the One Whole. So where is the ground for any supposition of either superiority or of inferiority? To climb to the place where we have not only overcome the physical demands for the separative self and the glamorous emotions of resentment and fear, but also our mental illusions of pride and grandeur, is a high achievement indeed. The mastery may not be perfectly complete, but it must be nearly so before our Transfiguration takes place.
Let us recall that in Matthew's account of this third initiation (17:1-8) the three disciples present ---- Peter, James and John ---- witnessed Jesus completely transfigured before them, His whole being, and even His garments, shining with an intense white light such as they never before had witnessed. Can we come to grips with the realization that at this summit experience we too will be enveloped in this tremendous light and power? For we will for the first time come face to face with God ---- that is, with Sanat Kumara, the embodiment of the planetary Logos. We need to keep in mind that at the earlier initiations ---- the divine Birth and the divine Baptism ---- it is the Lord Christ, Maitreya, who is the Hierophant, the one wielding the Rod of Power and welcoming us to a new level of experience. But by the time of this third initiation we will have made so much progress that it is the incarnate Lord of the World who is the Initiator.
As Alice Bailey reminds us:''An initiation is a blaze of illumination thrown upon the river of existence, and it is in the nature of a whole experience. There is no indefiniteness in it, and the initiate is never quite the same again in his consciousness. '' (From Bethlehem to Calvary, p. 183) The illumination at the third initiation far surpasses any at an earlier time.
For some time now the Ageless Wisdom teachings have been telling us that we are not the physical body, not the emotions, not the lower mind which we call the intellect, nor are we the sum total of these ---- called the personality, but that these are merely instruments through which we as divine beings choose to work while in physical incarnation.
For many of us, however, this teaching has fallen on deaf ears or at best has remained but a theoretical concept. However, when we come to experience this Transfiguration initiation, we will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are the divine Self, and that the three-fold personality is but a dim reflection of that divinity. Not only will we know this divinity within ourselves, or as ourselves, but we will realize also that all our brothers and sisters are indeed sparks of that one divine flame. Alice Bailey quite pointedly remarks in this connection that if man is not divine, then the fatherhood of God is but an empty concept.
The deep reason that, at this initiation, we will know that we are divine is that for the first time we will truly be in touch with our inmost Spirit or Monad. Previous to this, on our long and difficult climb up life's mountain, we have been striving to achieve Soul consciousness, to become a Soul-infused personality. At the third initiation that great achievement will be realized and as that Soul, or Solar Angel, we will begin reaching up toward monadic consciousness, something that may not be fully achieved until we become Masters of Wisdom at the fifth initiation.
In the Jerusalem Bible (which I consider the most accurate of all English translations) we find these words at a high point of the Transfiguration:''This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor, listen to him.'' (Matt. 17:5)
When we reach that high level we also will know that 'I and the Father are one', now that there is no barrier between the initiate and the Monad or Father within. And we too will be conveying the living word of God so clearly that humanity will need to listen.
During that experience Jesus saw the future unfolding before Him with clarity; and not far distant, His coming trial and crucifixion at Jerusalem. So He began preparing His disciples for the crucial test which would also await them at that time. Let us also be prepared to look clearly, when that high experience is ours, into our own future. For we will then have the courage to face whatever testiness it has in store for us, knowing that, however hard the path, we will have what it takes to be victorious. It would be well to recognize, however, that all of these marvelous insights may not be immediately available to us in our outer brain level of consciousness. The reason is that the energies are so tremendous at this third initiation that it may take months or even years for the physical brain to absorb them without brain damage. But though the outer realization may need to come slowly, yet the results of achieving that high level will be beautiful indeed.
From this time on, for example, our service will be free from all selfishness or self-centeredness. This truly will be world service, service of meaning and value for all humanity. We will know when and what to speak, and when to remain silent. Our word will go out with power, and the power of our silent thought will bless the world.
We will realize our freedom from the age-old slavery to the three-fold personality. Thus our experience will include not only all our human brothers and sisters, but all aspects and forms of life. We will be fully aware that we are living a really new life; that we are associated with the Spiritual Hierarchy of our planet earth. With true humility, we will know that together we all become channels through which God can reach and lift humanity step by step out of its bondage. And though this high peak may seem to gleam far, far above us, let us take heart and new courage, and seek the inspiration which will enable us to move steadily onward and upward upon those steps which will lead unfailingly to that great summit.
This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming. This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation. Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated.
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