One of the reasons why the discipline of the Path has been called a “hard school” is because the ordinary motives for action have to be reversed and given more impersonal direction.
As a neophyte, you must think in terms of others as well as yourself.
You may find it difficult to wholeheartedly accept the condition of pledging yourself to service as soon as you enter thoroughly upon self-development. This is not just the case with the neophyte; it is often the same for those who have been seeking advancement on the Path for many years.
When it is suggested they should throw their influence into other lives, they fail to see any connection between self-development and an interest in the development of others.
They imagine that the law of service does not apply until they themselves are well advanced on the Path.
They can scarcely be blamed for this, for many schools of occult education do not give much emphasis to the importance of service to others. Instead, they concentrate almost exclusively on methods of self-development or self-importance, with personal power as the sole objective.
If you are thinking only in terms of the material plane, this is to some extent legitimate and achievable. Indeed, it is possible to make some spiritual progress without any special consideration of service to others: but only within very narrow limits.
In the progress of a person of any commendable quality, the time comes when this kind of exclusive programme becomes a most unsatisfactory affair. Psychic development is quite compatible with a selfish attitude towards life, and indeed has been put to improper use, and examples of this are well documented.
Soul development however, is impossible on such terms.
Study well the two Paths! They run very close to each other up to a critical point, beyond which they separate forever. It is at this point that the true Path resolves itself into the narrow and flaming way of service.
Why must the neophyte learn to serve? Because the Inner Master whom we aspire to know is perfected in service.
You cannot have intimate association with the Master in world work until you have learned, through long probation, to likewise serve, and to serve efficiently.
However, service is not necessarily of a spiritual character. We receive a hint of this from the Master they say: “…Nay, but what better cause for reward, what better discipline, than the daily and hourly performance of duty.”
That is characteristic of the teaching of the Master. They point you back to first principles, to the place where you now stand, and bids you to be productive in that place.
That may not be very inviting for some of us. Perhaps we were looking for something important at the beginning, something different from the occupation of the average person. Maybe we were expecting to be noticed as a remarkable character in some way….
How typical this attitude of mind is, not only in spiritual quests, but in many walks of life!
Yet, only a generation ago, our noble-minded ancestors were not possessed with this narrow-minded spirit. Neither were Masters who belonged to an ancient and classic humanity. To them, the masks, mummeries and triumphs of our day would have passed for nothing. They stand as an inspiring example of reality, durableness and self-effacement which makes our little ambitions and desire for effect unworthy of serious notice.
Small wonder is it that the Master has to wait!
To wait, even through incarnations, for us to awaken from this sleep of the senses. Small wonder that we are compelled to open our own eyes, just where we are, and shake off the hypnotic sleep of unreality and false values that hang heavy about us.
Surely our affection for the Master grows most as we realise more and more the infinite patience shown towards the children of the Path during this awakening process.
This can only be a patience grounded upon supernal wisdom and perfect compassion. Sometimes, we might be of that turn of mind where we lust for power over our fellow human beings. Perhaps the objective in our studies is to win the reputation of being a notable character.
This attitude slays the soul for real achievement. It is forbidden ground, and the person who treads such ground is soon lost in the swamp of illusion. Such a person has a long way to go before he or she can hope to lord it over the souls of other people.
You can lord it over others to your heart’s content on the physical and mental planes if you have cultivated force to that end; but not on the spiritual plane. A greater and purified force is required on that level.
This, you will only gain when the objectionable voice of personal superiority has been made dumb through probation. As long as the personal voice speaks, you are on the mental plane, and your service will be ineffectual because it emanates from that plane. It will be service activated largely by self-interest, and will pass with others for what it is worth.
Service on the Path means service because you want to and must serve.
If that ideal carries with it too strong a note of self-effacement, it is not the ideal that is wrong but your conception of the work before you. As the saying goes: “There is a price for everything worth having.”
The Path of spiritual revelation is an individual one, and every step on it has to be cut by our own hands and trodden by our own feet. This is not an arbitrary law made by our teachers. It is an unalterable condition in the sphere of the Masters, that to receive, you must give.
It is a severe and mortifying condition for the personality that loves to grasp and live for itself. However, there is no other way for you to gain even a preliminary measure of true self-knowledge, and to gain even the minor initiations of the Path.
You must recognise the fact that service equals development.
Service may not necessarily be occult in character. Pause for a moment and think about that.
When you recognise in fullness your innate gifts, you will determine your mission in life. Years may pass in different spheres before your gifts are recognised. One of the most striking results of service is the peculiar power of its discipline in initiating you into the sphere of the soul, and unfolding faculties unperceived until now; faculties you may have only dimly recognised and partially expressed.
The awakening of the soul may lead you in many directions and into many walks of life. Remember, the disciples of the Master are just as likely to be found engaged in political, social and economic fields, as in spiritual and religious.
You will not find more powerful examples of this than if you study the history of the Rosicrucian fraternity.
Their influence can be traced throughout the civilised world in literature, art and science, in church and state, in mystical illumination and in occult achievements.
That being so, as neophytes, we should enter upon our training with an open mind about the line of service that the studies will eventually disclose as fittest for us. As the training goes forward, one thing is certain: that which you can do best will be brought into prominence and matured. Furthermore, it will not be long before you find ways and means of applying your abilities along lines which are satisfactory to yourself and also of value to the world.
There may be some who pause here, as a shadow of disappointment settles upon them on meeting so strong an emphasis upon service as the key to high development.
One can only feel complete sympathy with this. After all, many of us enter upon our studies with hopeful ambition for personal conquest.
However, we must remember that each of us is now passing into the domain of an exact science, the technique of which consists of unchangeable laws of thought and principles of action. Such laws cannot be ignored without consequences.
The act of service on the Path releases the power of the soul.
Unfoldment is not dependant only upon our absorbing of the material in the studies. The athlete is not made by a detailed study of anatomy and reflection on the development of the physical body. The athlete must translate this information into muscular training and scientific body building, as well as a range of mental adjustments specifically geared towards the physical feats he or she wishes to accomplish.
It is the same with the neophyte, with you and I. The forces we seek to know and manipulate are resident within us, and exist around us. What we need is the key to enable us to tap into these infinite forces that await the call of the will to bring them into active use.
Surprisingly, faith plays a large part is our unfoldment and use of power. We will obtain many hints of this in times of emergency and stress if we are aware of our deeper nature.
The steady and continuous effort to serve in any way that circumstances afford the least opportunity, will teach us far more than any detailed study of the spiritual life.
You will have no idea of what you are capable until you rise confidently in the event of human need and you compel the response of the soul’s innate power in meeting it. There is no room for the lukewarm neophyte on the Path. The demands of life have no room for this.
On the Path, men and women of action are needed.
There are enough cults and societies in existence which will afford the careless ample hospitality to dream life away.
The student we have in mind must leave these things to those who need them: only then will you be of some use in the world, and then others will emulate your example.
Adapted and abridged from “The Neophyte and Service”: Chapter 3 of “The Technique of the Disciple” by Raymund Andrea as published in the Rosicrucian Heritage September 2019.