The Probative Path of the Great Work
The knowledge of the Probative path and the Path proper has been shared by many esoteric authors, in different ways. However, what I am going to write in this article is a very practical and concise information that is originating in the Gnostic teachings. It is an experimental knowledge that doesn’t have to stay written in a text, but can be verified by everyone who aspires to reach a higher form of life.
The Probative path of the Great Work relates to part of the Path that is important to understand well, because everyone who wants to start with it must go through the stage of Probation. This stage is often time neglected, probably because it does not hold the same appeal as the stages of the Path proper, but regardless of that it is necessary to study it and to do what it takes to be appropriately prepared in order to begin climbing the First Mountain.
It has already been stated many times that the Path is something that is very real, and that it has its stages, known as the Three Mountains. Each Mountain consists of eight Initiations, which are periods in which the initiate goes through an advanced learning process, to understand properly their inner defects in order to pass the Initiatic tests and earn the right for the transformations that come at the end of each Initiation. These transformations are rewards that come from the initiate’s hard work on their egos and on developing virtues. The rewards of the first four Initiations entails access to created or activated higher inner vehicles (etheric, astral and mental) known as the solar bodies. From the fifth Initiation onwards the rewards, besides the creation of new vehicles corresponding to dimensional levels, entails the incarnation of the Being, which means the attainment of permanent states of happiness and peace, regardless of the situations of life; permanent because the situations of life do not take those states away. Rewards also include access to psychic senses (such as intuition, telepathy and clairvoyance), freedom from the Wheel of Samsara, freedom to travel or move to other parts of the Universe, to advance within the Absolute, and much more.
Though as every journey begins with the first step, so too is necessary for everyone aspiring to reach the spiritual heights to set their foot on the Probative path, by taking up the inner work seriously. This means that one has to apply the techniques for the revolution of the consciousness, and these are:
- to have the consciousness awake and active in daily life,
- to self-observe the egos that manifest in the five psychological centers of the body
- to eliminate the egos that are manifesting from moment to moment
- to be chaste and practice transmutation of the sexual energies
- to do supplementary practices, such as meditation, mantras, astral travel etc., that will aid the consciousness to stay active and awake in daily life
- To help others spiritually, in whatever way is suitable for our level
These above points are criteria to begin the Probation. The foundation of all of it is the work on the consciousness and the egos; to increase the consciousness by eliminating the egos; to have the free consciousness as much awake and active, so that through it we are inundated with higher energy and thus with needed inspiration in order to apply daily and continuous efforts, as this work demands.
One of the key factors in the equation of making the inner work to yield results, is the correct usage of sexual energy, because the latter is the fuel that we need in order to do the inner work. When we use it correctly, it is the energy used by the consciousness for its awakening. Its incorrect usage is when the ego of lust misuses it to fulfil its desires, resulting in losing the energy completely. It is the sexual energy that needs to be purified, stabilized, and transmuted; its symbolic color needs to change from black to white to yellow to red. Once it reaches the red color, it means that the first aspect of Kundalini can start to rise up in the physical body.
And so when the above mentioned points relating to the inner work are applied, the Probative path will start to unfold. Its stages are the following:
- The Guardian of the threshold
- The tests of the four elements (earth, fire, water, and air)
- Various tests after the tests of the four elements
All of these tests are said to be organized by spiritual beings who reside in the higher dimensions, who are responsible for the spiritual advancement of our planet and of the individuals who wish to awaken. It has also been said that these beings will not throw us the tests if we are not prepared for it, which is why it is important from our side to do what it takes to become ready. Except for the first one (the Guardian of the Threshold), all the tests take place both in the astral and the physical world. In the former, the tests take place in the events of daily life. In the astral world, our consciousness is temporarily awakened so that we act in those tests in the same way as we would here in the physical world, though without being able to recognize that we are deaming. When major tests of the Probative path are passed successfully, there is a celebration thrown by the higher beings, in which they often take the shape of little children. It is these beings, as well as our own inner Being, who organize the Path for us.
The Guardian of the Threshold
This is the first and most basic test, relating to the admittance to the Probation. Although being a basic test, it is at the same time the first major milestone, because if one passes it successfully, one begins the journey of inner transformation. The Guardian is the representation of all the defects, of all the egos that the aspirant has. It can take on various forms, but often time it appears as a large and ugly creature that comes in our dream. The anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner has written in his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds that this guardian is a product of person’s actions, feelings and thoughts, which is why it appears monstrous, and that it needs to be purified.
We have to face the Guardian of the Threshold with calmness, being willing to fight it. If we do that, then we pass the test, but if we run away from it, we fail. We don’t have to defeat the monster in order to pass the test, we just need to face it, because this shows that we are willing and ready to eliminate the egos, to do the inner work. If we fail the first time, it is said that we have two more times that we can take it, which means that there are three times in total that we can take this test.
In order to pass it, it is necessary to die well to our egos.
The Tests of the Four Elements
“In the solitude of these mysterious sanctuaries, the neophytes were submitted to the four Initiatic ordeals. The ordeals of fire, air, water and earth always defined the diverse purifications of the neophytes. The neophytes are submitted to the four Initiatic ordeals which are verified in the Internal Worlds. The human being still is not a king or queen of nature, but the human being is called to be a king in accordance to Melchizedeck.
Disciples must be tested by the four elements in order to examine them. They are submitted to ordeals in the forty-nine regions of thought. These ordeals are for everyone, man and woman. One can help oneself by having pure thoughts, but this is not enough; meditation is necessary.”
– Samael Aun Weor, The Initiatic Path in the Arcana of Tarot and Kabbalah
The tests that Samael mentions here are the tests of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air. They follow right after the test of the Guardian is passed. It is unclear to me if there is a specific order in which the tests of the elements appear. Different spiritual teachers have given different orders of appearance of these tests, and due to the nature of dream recall many aspirants who have passed them could not verify for themselves if that order is always the same. In here I will mention the order as told by Samael’s disciple, master Rabolu:
“The four tests, Earth, Fire, Water and Air, are the ones which are being thrown to us from moment to moment, because in those tests… through the four tests the Hierarchies know how we are doing spiritually and if we are practising or not. It is through those tests that they begin to give us a note.”
~ Rabolu, The Rebel Eagle
The Test of Earth
In the astral world we may see ourselves trapped between two mountains or cliffs. They are closing in and we have to find the way out. If we are serene and calm, we will pass the test. This situation in the astral is symbolic of how we are dealing with and responding to adversities of life. We need to be calm and of clear mind in order to make a good decision when in difficult situations of life. Then we will pass this test both in the astral and the physical world.
The Test of Fire
The test of fire is testing our anger. Like in a previous test, this one too takes place in both the astral and the physical world. In both worlds we are put in a situation where someone says or do something that triggers our anger. In order to pass this test, we need to not react with anger, but rather staying detached from it, observing it, and dying to it. Anger will undoubtedly be there, but it’s our job to stay detached, not allowing it to take control over us.
The Test of Water
In this one our adaptability is tested, where it is seen how adaptable we are to different situations of life, and whether we will act in line with the inner work in such situations. Regardless if the situations are perceived as good or bad by the society, we always have to act according to the principles of the inner work. In the astral plane, we may see ourselves in a large body of water. Instead of becoming disheartened, we have to swim towards the shore. This shows our level of willingness and adaptability.
The Test of Air
In this test we are dealing with the test on attachments of various kinds, such as attachment to people, places, belongings, situations, habits, egos, etc. In the astral plane we may see ourselves falling from a great height, and in order to pass it we have to be serene. This is symbolic of our reactions to attachments in the physical world. It’s fine to have things and people around you, but being attached to anything or anyone is an obstacle in the inner work. As our attachments are connected with deeply rooted egos, we become more and more free of them as the egos are dissolved on the Path.
As Rabolu has said in the above quoted text, these four basic tests can be given throughout the Probative stage, so that the higher beings can see how we are doing spiritually, to make sure that we are working on ourselves well. Depending on our level of seriousness with the work, we can go through them quite quickly, so that we start facing other tests that come after.
Other tests of the Probative path
The process of the Probationary stage continues with tests in the astral and the physical world, and is essentially the last part of the Probative path, however it can last a long time if there is not enough inner work taking place. These tests would test us to see if our defects are still as strong, and if we would still do things that are not in line with the higher law and with the principles of the path. In here we are tested on things such as theft, dishonesty, aggressiveness, putting others down, gossiping, lust, and other defects. Obviously at this stage we are still not free of egos, so it is not that perfection is expected of us, but a clear transformation should be seen if we are using the techniques of the inner work well. So we try to do as best as we can.
“Therefore, before receiving the first initiation, tests will be thrown to us daily over a period of months, or even years. It is something like a discipline, but an awesome one. It is then that the psychological work, that is the Inner Death in Motion, becomes useful for us in order to come out well in those tests. This is what is useful to us, so that we defend ourselves in order to come out of those tests well.
However, anyone can pass big tests. For example, anyone can pass the test of theGuardian, the four tests of earth, fire, water and air –anyone passes them. The minute small tests are the most dangerous ones and it is there where the majority of Initiates stay,in those tests, because we do not believe that they are tests.”
~ Rabolu, the Rebel Eagle
Indeed, it is the small tests that keep many aspirants stuck on the Probative stage, which is why it is very important to take the inner work seriously, to not only work on the egos that we don’t like, but on all of them. For that there is a need to clearly see what the ego is, and to have courage to part with both ‘good’ and bad egos, because they are all entrapping the consciousness in their illusion and darkness.
The revealment of darkness and light
It is important to understand that the Path is something profound, something that changes us radically, and this starts as soon as we set our foot upon it. If we are made for it, we will gravitate towards it, we will have courage to step on it and to do what is necessary to progress. It is not like a hobby, like an interest that we engage in our free time. The Path becomes our life and the way we live it. In such a life, things emerge from us that we didn’t know we had before, both good and bad, everything comes out in the open.
“As soon as anyone pledges himself as a Probationer, certain occult effects ensue. The first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man—his faults, habits, qualities or subdued desires, whether good, bad or indifferent. For instance, if a man be vain or a sensualist, or ambitious … these vices are sure to break out, even if he has hitherto successfully concealed or repressed them. They will come to the front irrepressibly, and he will have to fight a hundred times harder than before, until he kills all such tendencies in himself. On the other hand, if he be good, generous, chaste and abstemious, or has any virtue latent and concealed in him, it will work its way out as irrepressibly as the rest…. This is an immutable law in the domain of the occult.”
~ Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine
When we begin the Probationary stage, our inner Being meets us and reveals itself to us, and we experience love in a way that surprises us. Virtues begin to surface, and we learn to make them part of our life, as a weapon against the egos. But just like the virtues, the egos too start coming out more, so that we see them and work on them. We have to work on them in order to pass the stage of Probation and become fit for the Path proper.
Last stage of the Probationary Path
In the last stage, the color of the sexual energy has been turned to symbolic red color, after it has been purified from black to white to yellow to red. According to some Gnostic teachers, it is said that this transformation of the sexual energy is accomplished with the practice of alchemy, but it is possible to pass this stage without it, though it might be that this depends on the spiritual work that we have or have not done in our past lives. When we finish the stage of Probation, we enter on the Path proper, we start climbing the First Mountain. This is also referred to as “entering the stream”, because then we are connected to the transformative process in a greater way; we are pushed onwards in our work. This increases even more when we begin climbing the Second Mountain.
It is useful to keep in mind that there may not be grandiose indications that we have finished the Probative path and that we have start climbing the First Mountain. Nor we may feel anything special when the Kundalini starts rising. We will certainly notice it eventually within the spine, and will notice its effects, but not necessarily at the moment it awakens.
Our dreams take on a higher note and begin to guide us, and in them we may see that things are starting to take place more intensely, but do not expect grandiose events taking place for each milestone of the Path. We only clearly notice that a large transformation has taken place from the 4th Initiation onwards, when the solar mental body has been attained.
I believe that many people have passed Probation and are climbing the First Mountain, though thinking themselves to be stuck on the tests of the Probative path, waiting and hoping for some exceptional circumstances or experiences to take place that would give them a hint that they are progressing. It is unfortunate to see many people stuck in their belief systems.
The Path, both Probationary and proper, is silent, it happens in daily life, and the results are seen both there and in dreams. Our state of being is transformed, knowledge is gained, wisdom expanded, and we become very different to what we were before. All of that is noticed gradually as the change is taking place. The important thing is to keep going with the inner work, not taking breaks because of this or that circumstances, because it is in these and all other circumstances that the inner work must be done. As a sage once said, “Initiation is life lived intensely, with rectitude and with love.”
The Probative path is something that essentially starts as soon as we decide to do what is necessary to progress spiritually. Anyone can take it up, regardless of their history and background. If we feel drawn to the inner work, if in our heart we feel that this is the right thing for us, it means that we are ready to try it out and hopefully progress along the Path. I decided to write about this topic now because it seems that many people have begun the work in a serious way, and if they have, it indicates that the Probative path has started for them. If this is so, one would do good to pay attention to one’s dreams and events happening in daily life. When we apply the necessary inner work, we can go through this process of Probation in a relatively short span of time. The end of this stage and the Initiations of the First Mountain are not as distant as many people believe them to be.
HDP, March 2021.