The Difference between Eastern and Western Initiation and Rudolf Steiner's Initiation

This is the only shot that portrays Rudolf Steiner in the state of profound clairvoyant perception during an Esoteric Lesson in 1907.

This article aims to shed light on the diversity of the path between the Eastern theosophical and Western anthroposophical way, also through its precursors, the esoteric Christianity and the Rosicrucian way.

To begin with, it is necessary to describe first what came first: the Eastern initiation of Theosophy was present from the very beginning of the ancient Indian era, but the content of this tradition comes even from Atlantis.

But just as the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West, so the Eastern initiation has given way to the Western initiation. Western initiation was born on the shores of the Mediterranean through the incarnation of Christ and the subsequent Mystery of Golgotha, became esoteric Christianity and then came to Europe as a Rosicrucian initiation.

Let us now see the details.

Initiation in Theosophy

In Theosophy thirteen initiatory levels are distinguished, mainly outlined by Alice Bailey, based on the writings of the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Human beings proceed along the initiatory scale through successive earthly incarnations, what is reincarnated through various personalities is the individuality that through the causal body has the power to implement good or evil. Causing negative karma slows down the process of evolution, which must be gradually compensated for. The first four levels are attainable by human beings before they reach Enlightenment. The purpose of initiation is to expand the consciousness to higher and higher levels, and the wisdom thus gained can be used for the good of the world. In fact, beyond the fourth level there is the possibility of becoming one of the Masters of Ancient Wisdom who are also known as Ascended Masters, human beings who have been freed from karma but who help those human beings who are left behind. Blavatsky recognized seven of them, while according to Bailey they reach about sixty.

Bailey's initiation levels are an extension of Blavatsky's theosophical levels. They begin with level zero, the "probation" to which most of humanity belongs and continues ascending:

  1. Spiritual birth: it is the total experience of the physical and etheric body.

  2. Baptism: is the total experience of the astral body.

  3. Transfiguration: it is the total experience of the mind, therefore the initiate becomes clairvoyant and clairaudient.

  4. Crucifixion (or Enlightenment): it is the experience of previous lives (karma) and gives the degree of Arhat, detached from the necessity of incarnation. Spiritual powers are also manifested that have effect in the physical world (siddhi).

  5. Resurrection: it confers the first degree of Ascended Teacher, which is manifested to help humanity. The Arhat possesses spiritual powers such as teleportation, bilocation, and levitation, but only in a certain space. According to Leadbeater and Bailey there are 43 Masters at this level of initiation including Master Jupiter.

  6. Ascension (or Mastership): gives the second degree of Ascended Master, in this category are gathered the seven masters of which theosophy speaks. They are also called the Chohans of the Seven Rays, they direct the powers of the rays on Earth: Koot Humi, El Morya, Paul the Venetian, Serapis Bey, Hilarion, Jesus and Saint-Germaine, to which is added the catalyst Djwal Khul who brings the Seven Rays to the seven Chohans. They possess spiritual powers such as teleportation, bilocation and levitation anywhere on Earth.

  7. Bodhisattva (or Avatar or Christ Consciosness): at this level we find the Maitreya (the Master of the World) whom the Hindus call Kishna, the Zoroastrians Peshotan, the Jews Messiah, the Islamic Iman Mahdi, the Christians Christ. There are also two leaders of the seven "radical races", Chakshusha Manu progenitor of the Atlantis Race and Vaivasvatu Manu progenitor of the Fifth Root Race (ours). As well as Maha Chohan, head of the Seven Chohans.

  8. Buddhahood: at this level of initiation there are the Three Pratyeka Buddha who direct the impulses of the Seven Rays (i.e. planetary archetypes) from Sanat Kumara to Djwal Khul towards Earth, they do not interact with humanity except by channeling the Seven Rays. They communicate entirely with telepathy, they can move in interplanetary space and the nearby interstellar space, having activated the transpersonal chakras or chakras above the seven microcosmic.

  9. Deity: the being at this level is Sanat Kumara, the "Lord of the World", the deity who presides over life in our cosmos. He is called both the Eternal Youth and the Ancient of Days, because he brings together all the opposite and opposite polarities. His consciousness is one with life on Earth. He is omniscient within the Earth and capable of manipulating great quantities of matter, materializing it and dematerializing it, through fohat, the foundation of existence of matter itself. It is responsible for the cyclical destruction and creation that takes place on the planet, but it can interact even outside our planetary chain influencing other solar systems to a certain extent.

  10. Planetary Logos: also called the Spirit of the Earth, is Gaia, the living planet. It is the voice that speaks through Sanat Kumara with whom it is in constant telepathic communication. Previously at this level he was a Deva from another solar system, before incarnating as Earth at the beginning of the Creation of the Earth itself.

  11. Solar Logos: also called the Spirit of the Sun, Helios gives his vital impulses to the Earth. From him flow the Seven Rays, diffused by the light of the Sun in its spiritual aspect.

  12. Galactic Logos: it is the being that maintains the existence of our galaxy, coordinating more Suns among them. It is known by the name of Averran.

  13. Cosmic Logos: also known as "Alpha and Omega", it is the being that maintains the existence of all created universes. It can also be called God.

Initiation in theosophy

A further expansion of these levels can be found in the writings of Bailey's disciple, Benjamin Creme. These same levels can also be found today in the so-called "Teachings of the Ascended Masters", an integral part of contemporary New Age through Elisabeth Clare Prophet. However, we will not consider them here, since this concept of the Masters does not add anything essential to the theosophical knowledge, and rather water it down with simplistic notions, to say the least.

In this series of initiatory levels we can note a first group of six levels which concern initiation proper, while the next six concern the evolution towards new forms of existence on the scale of being. The seventh level of initiation (Bodhisattva) is the link between initiation proper and spiritual evolution. The relationship between the levels of initiation and those of spiritual evolution is shown by the first three of the Seven Cosmic Rays, the archetypes of cosmic evolution (which in Anthroposophy are called Seven Metamorphoses of the Earth).

The Solar Logos (eleventh initiatory level) is divided into:

  1. First Appearance: Will, represents the Father.

  • Sanat Kumara: Lord of the World (9th initiatory stage)

  • Manu (7th)

  1. Second Aspect: Wisdom, represents the Son.

  • Buddha (8th)

  • Maitreiya (7th)

  1. Third Aspect: Activity, represents the Holy Spirit.

  • Maha Chohan (7th)

Divided into the Three Main Rays, we find the Seven Masters of Ancient Wisdom:

  1. First Ray:

  • Master El Morya (6th)

  • Master Jupiter (5th)

  1. Second Ray:

  • Master Koot Humi (6th)

  • Master Djwal Khul (6th)

  1. Third to Seventh Ray:

  • The Venetian Master (6th)

  • Master Serapis (6th)

  • Master Hilarion (6th)

  • Master Jesus (6th)

  • Master Saint-Germain (6th)

The Seven Rays and the Masters of Ancient Wisdom

Initiation into Anthroposophy

There is a first preparatory phase in which the concentration in the waking consciousness is stimulated and, subsequently, there are the following degrees of understanding of the oversensitive:

  1. Imagination: when the I penetrate the astral body and produce clairvoyance. It culminates in the understanding of spiritual images. This degree is the "conscious dream", which penetrates the animal element;

  2. Inspiration: when the I penetrate the etheric body and produces clairaudience. It culminates in the understanding of spiritual language. It is the degree of "sleep without conscious dreams", which penetrates the vegetable element;

  3. Intuition: when the ego penetrates the physical body and produces Clairsipience. It culminates in the experience of spiritual beings. It is the degree of "conscious trance" that penetrates the mineral element.

One can distinguish Initiation when one has at least reached the degree of Inspiration. Therefore, the Initiate is the one who understands and has direct experience of spiritual beings. Therefore, both in dreaming and in sleep and trance, the individual consciousness of the Initiate remains completely intact.

Anthroposophical Initiation: one can speak of initiation only when one has passed from Imagination to Intuition.

In addition, Steiner, in the last chapter of his lecture series The Wisdom of the Rosicrucians, reports two parallel initiatory paths, both of seven levels, which may be suitable for two different types of Western souls. The first is Christian-esoteric initiation and the second is Rosicrucian initiation. Both, in turn, are compatible with the anthroposophical way.

The Christian-Esoteric Initiation

The initiatory path of esoteric Christianity follows the events of the life of Jesus Christ, according to seven levels or stages. It literally comes to life from the Gospel of John, the most spiritual, which must be used by the disciple as a true manual of meditation. It is the only gospel in which every word must be taken literally, just as every word of Christ is the one truly spoken at the time of his incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel of John allows the disciple a real journey through time.

The precondition for this initiatory path is that one has faith in the existence of the Son and that he, as the guide of the Spirits of the Fire (Archangels) during the Old Sun, was incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth according to the words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The meditation will have to be conducted every morning for months, until the words "Full of dedication and truth," so that the soul of the disciple can penetrate to the depths. After that, you will arrive at the seven stages of the initiation proper, shown from John's Chapter 13 onwards. It is a question of meditating on the sufferings suffered by Christ and the mysterious events that occurred after his death on the Cross. The seven stages of Christian-esoteric initiation are:

  1. Washing of the Feet: Just as the plant is grateful to the mineral soil for its own life, so the animal is grateful to the vegetable. Man must be grateful to all three Kingdoms of Nature that have sacrificed themselves for him to be a human being. Thus Christ gives a good example: the Creator washes the feet of the creatures closest to him, the 12 apostles. How would we feel? This is the meditation for this first stage. The disciple of esoteric Christianity will feel outwardly his feet immersed in water, while inwardly he will see himself washing the feet of the 12 apostles.

  2. Scourging: The second meditation teaches that physical pain and soul suffering must always be faced, even if they come from all directions, without pause. How would we feel? Every pain that is inflicted is in fact a test to be overcome in order to expand one's consciousness according to love. Externally, the disciple's body is crossed by spasms, tingling and contractions while internally he sees himself scourged instead of Christ.

  3. Crowning of Thorns: the third meditation concerns our most sacred and spiritual part, what we would never question is instead publicly mocked. How would we feel? The disciple must accept that his most sacred part is not accepted by others, without opposing it. He will feel a circle on his head that corresponds to seeing himself crowned with thorns instead of Christ.

  4. Crucifixion: one must consider the body a mere object that we carry with us like so many others. It is necessary to break the identification of the I with the body, so that it is placed below its spiritual principle. When we have meditated enough on this feeling, by objectifying the body, signs will appear in the flesh in correspondence to the wounds inflicted on Jesus Christ on the cross: it is the "blood test" followed by the so-called stigmata. There are five of them: two on the hands, two on the feet, one on the right side. Usually only some redness is visible, but it can bleed, without becoming infected. They can be permanent or transient, and are usually given on Good Friday. Internally you will feel helpless, suspended above the cross.

  5. Mystical Death: the meditative feeling develops that the disciple is part of the whole, that his being belongs to the cosmos as if it were his limb. As this feeling grows, a veil of darkness falls around the consciousness so that nothing is perceived. The consciousness now feels the pains of all creation as its own. It is the descent into Hell that can remain for a long time (becoming the so-called depression). When one reaches the culmination of this experience, one reaches the foundation of existence, the I, so that one sees the spiritual world: the tearing of the veil.

  6. Burial and Resurrection: when the disciple in a meditative state feels his body as an object made up of the same substances as the whole Earth, then he feels buried in the earth. Every mineral, vegetable or animal, will be as close to him as his own body. He will have finally entered into the Soul of the World which is the soul of Christ according to the words, "He who eats my bread, tramples on me with his feet.

  7. Assumption: it is the celestial journey that takes place at the moment when the soul abandons the reflex thinking of the (lunar) brain for the spiritual thinking of the (solar) ego. It is not possible to describe its sensations.

This inner way is particularly suitable for those who are closer to the "contemplative life": it is the way of the mystics who encounter the inner Christ through the feeling of the soul, in the microcosm. Meditations must have as a constant the feelings of humility and devotion. Once the disciple's soul is attained, it rises within the spiritual world. It is a way to the past, i.e. it brings back the sequence of events immediately preceding the Turning-Point of Times, to that 33 A.D. in which the descending parable of humanity's evolution became ascending again. It is a true Imitatio Christi that allows to relive step by step the events that led to the Mystery of Golgotha while maintaining today's consciousness. It requires a sabbatical period, of retreat from active life, especially in rural areas, high mountains, or vice versa in desert and sparsely inhabited areas, close to sacred places. After reaching the seventh stage, one can return to live in society.

The Rosicrucian Initiation

However, in our life today, this path is becoming less and less practicable, due to the growing challenges that Ahriman's attack is posing from within Western civilization. In Western initiation man must actively fight in the spiritual war against Ahriman and place Lucifer at the service of Christ. Western man cannot afford to escape from the community that requires his irreplaceable presence.

For this reason Christian Rosenkreuz, already in the Middle Ages, performed the task necessary for the evolution of mankind to formulate a second initiation that leads to the same results but following the "active way". The Confraternity of the Rosicrucians founded by him made a gift to humanity of this new way of initiation, external, which had already been prepared in the Christian school of Dionysius the Aeropagite. It consists of seven stages which, unlike the Christian-esoteric way, can be approached in an individual order, with the exception of the first (study) and the last (divine bliss). It is one which, while maintaining a firm consciousness of the I, turns to the future states of evolution, unlike the Christian one, which turns to the past. The Rosicrucian initiate therefore anticipates all the stages of evolution that humanity will pass through only in the distant future.

Steiner describes it as a way of balance between Christianity and Indian yoga and for this reason also called "Western yoga":

  1. Study: Rosicrucian study consists of pure thoughts, taken from the spiritual worlds. These have nothing to do with the representations aroused by the senses in the material world. Through the study of the facts of the spiritual world the Rosicrucian way develops in the disciple powerful feelings that correspond to those same facts. From pure thought one arrives at pure feelings. Therefore, in the Rosicrucian school there is no dependence upon the teacher, but the spiritual facts themselves are masters. Finally, study leads to living thinking, so that each thought will germinate and flourish in the next one in a non-arbitrary order. The author thus takes second place to the content that he wants to communicate and that he can express for himself.

  2. Imaginative Knowledge: one must experience material reality as an expression of spiritual reality, so that when one observes a physical object one sees this as a symbol of a spiritual being. Every mineral, vegetable or animal will therefore be the expression of spiritual beings who communicate their essence through their manifestation. Just as man possesses body, soul and spirit; so Earth possesses them and expresses itself exactly as man. The result is a healing spiritual pedagogy: the imaginative knowledge acts on the etheric body and this balances the blood circulation.

  3. Inspirational Knowledge: it is the ability to read concatenated sets of symbols that constitute "occult writing". The links that link these symbols are experienced by the disciple as the making of sentences, of songs, which reflect the cosmic order. The spiritual word speaks to the soul of the disciple who finally learns to organize by himself sets of symbols, words and colors that echo the Music of the Spheres because they derive from it.