In May of 1986, huddled around a small TV screen in our Manhattan apartment, Nancy and I sat watching the satellite broadcast of “Sport Aid—The Race Against Time.” We were thrilled to be witnessing the first international sports marathon—broadcast live from London, Barcelona, Melbourne, and many other cities across the globe. Over 20 million runners on five continents were taking part in a synchronized event to raise funds for tens of millions of others suffering from starvation. To this day, The Race Against Time remains the biggest sporting event ever held on the planet.
We sat silently cheering the runners on across the finish line, listening intently. Suddenly, to our surprise and delight, the anchor of the broadcast, Rolland G. Smith, announced his heartfelt vision of the significance of what was happening. To this day, twenty-six years later, we remember his inspired message. To paraphrase, he said: “It is as though we are witnessing a planetary initiation.” (Rolland is a fellow contributor to this forum. )
We were amazed. This was the first time we had heard such language on television. As esoteric students, we were familiar with the phrase “planetary initiation” and the promise of expanded awareness that this term implies, but to hear these words on the broadcast of a global athletic event was something of a shock. In a typical sports event, the announcer and fans alike root the competitors on to victory. Here, runners around the world ran, jogged or walked 10 kilometers to elicit donations in support of African famine relief. Rolland’s statement about initiation reflected this spirit of cooperation.
It likewise echoed the extraordinary spirit of the times. In the 80s, humanity was starting to recognize itself as one race—a living organism—each human being, a cell in its body, interconnected and interdependent. The Concert for Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar in 1971 had inspired Bob Geldof’s Band Aid to raise money to fight poverty in Ethiopia in ‘84. On the same day in ’86 that Sport Aid was broadcast, Hands Across America had inspired 6.5 million people to form a “human chain” linking New York City to Long Beach, California. Nancy and I had joined the New York contingent—hand-in-hand along Riverside Drive in Manhattan—to do our small part to raise consciousness in this fight against hunger and homelessness.
Now we found ourselves joining millions across the globe cheering the runners in a race against time—to bring desperately needed famine relief to Africa. If asked why we felt it was important to participate in these events, we might, perhaps, have spoken of “the one world,” “the interconnectedness of the human family,” and “the call to help those in need.” We may have recognized the powerful symbolism of millions of people across the globe joining to fight poverty and hunger. But initiation into expanded consciousness was not at the forefront of our thinking.
Yet the thought is provocative. It evokes an important question, which begs to be answered: “What was it that moved us (the millions of us who participated) to take such unprecedented actions?” The answer to this question can be revealing. It can help us to understand human evolution, human motivation and human interdependence. It can expand our awareness of who we are in truth, and where we stand on the ladder of evolution—where we fit in the scheme of things.
The answer, in simplest terms, is that we were moved, as a group, by the soul. We had grown through lifetimes of experience and had reached a place of readiness to participate in something greater than ourselves. We were spiritually mature enough to register (even if unconsciously) a spiritual aspect of ourselves that is wider and more inclusive than the outer separative personality. We were moved by the love nature within us that reveals itself through an opening heart, and registers the pain and suffering of our fellow human beings.
We were coming together at that time in history—each of us responding to the touch of the soul—coming awake to our true nature as spiritual beings. The fact that millions of us felt the same call to service and the urge to respond to human need was extraordinary and truly significant. It was evidence of a spiritual awakening at work in the world that extends far beyond our individual lives. We were and are part of a great tide of spiritual energy that is sweeping across the world.
Since these events took place over a quarter century ago, we have lived, individually and collectively, through times of immense change. We have experienced failure and disappointment in a world in turmoil. At the same time, we have witnessed great triumph and victory. Poverty still runs rampant throughout the world and has worsened in industrialized countries. Nations are still immersed in war. Yet the spirit of freedom struggles to emerge. The Berlin Wall has fallen; apartheid has ended in South Africa, and the Arab Spring has ignited fires of transformation in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and other regions.
We are clearly in a time of transition, a time of trial and testing—a trial by fire. We are souls on the battleground of life undergoing a profound process of purification. To aid our comprehension of what is going on, let’s try an experiment to shift our perspective—one that involves taking the stance (the elevated stance) of the Observer.
If you, like me, have lived through the times of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s into this century of change, see yourself, if you will, looking back from the present moment across the years to those formative times earlier in your life. See yourself as a unit of consciousness in a great evolving stream of consciousness. Take the wider view, observe what is happening. See yourself as a part of the whole—a cell in the body of humanity. What is the body corporate experiencing? What is the nature of our collective journey? The answers to these questions, of course, will be unique for each one of us, but together we can begin a process of thinking things through to greater understanding.
From this perspective ask yourself: What progress have I made? What progress are we making as a human family? What moves me personally, spiritually, in my journey? Are my motives self-centered or have I begun to recognize the value of the greater good—the greatest good for the greatest number? If we are honest, we will undoubtedly register both the good and the lesser evolved aspects of ourselves in answering these questions, but we can learn much in the process.
By taking this higher stance and striving to see ourselves as part of a greater whole, we can gain insight into what some have called “the better angels of our nature.” We might, in fact, as the intuition quickens, catch a glimpse of the true spiritual purpose for human evolution, which the Ageless Wisdom speaks about. We are meant to be conscious links in a great chain of life that descends from high spiritual realms into the “lesser kingdoms” of nature. It is our spiritual destiny to become conscious mediators between the kingdom of the soul and the other groups of lives evolving in the dense material world.
If, for a moment, we can look through the eye of the soul, we may catch a glimpse of this reality and register the subtle inner world of the true Self. As we do so, we may begin to register something of the group aspect of the process of development that we are engaged in. What we shall see, as the inner eye opens, is that we are all “in this together.” We are part of “the Oversoul”—the collective soul—of humanity and, as such, we stand together at a turning point. We are on a threshold of new collective awareness.
There is evidence all around us that something greater than ourselves is at work in the world. Something is impressing us as a group. In the 80s we sang: “We are the world…we are the children… We are the ones to make a brighter day, so let’s start giving… There’s a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives…” This is an expression of soul or group consciousness impacting the human mind and heart.
The spirit of giving, of saving and helping others, has pulsed “on again” and “off again” through the years. It has retreated at times into the background and, at other times, has risen to the surface, particularly in the selfless acts of the thousands of caring souls who seek to make a difference in the world. It is evidence of the awakening soul of humanity. We see signs of its presence continually in the media: A man donates a kidney to a stranger. A seven year old boy raises $270,000 for quake victims in Haiti. Kids pitch in to raise money for Japan following the nuclear disaster. The awakening spiritual Self is wonderfully present with us, coming alive in the body of humanity. We must simply open our spiritual eyes to see it.
It has been said that humanity is coming of age. This simply means that we are coming closer to claiming our true identity, closer to fulfilling our destiny as souls, closer to the time when “being spiritual” will not simply be a high ideal. It will become a shared human value embraced by the society as a whole. Can you imagine that possibility? This stage in the evolution of consciousness may be decades in the making for humanity as a whole, but the fact is: such a change has already begun.
The old order is dying and a new order is emerging. The soul of humanity is coming to life, blossoming into outer expression, and there is great turmoil as the old, entrenched forces resist its appearance. The human psyche that connects us subjectively—as one human family—is stirring, and coming alive in the world, and this is what is moving people to such extraordinary action.
The quickening soul of humanity may be what Rolland Smith was intuiting in his declaration about “planetary initiation.” The Race Against Time and the other global charity initiatives of the 70s and 80s were signs, as Bob Dylan declared years earlier, that: “...the times, they are a’ changing.” In the decades since, much has changed—inwardly and outwardly to some degree—but there is more to come—much more.
Initiation onto the Path of Return
What awaits humanity in the coming age—with the dawning of the Age of Aquarius—is life on the spiritual path. This does not mean instant enlightenment; it means much hard work, particularly for those…first among us to come to recognize the existence of the subtle worlds. These “intuitives of the race” are meant to be the pathfinders, the pioneers in the spiritual journey that we all can share. They register divine ideas, which are seeking to manifest in physical form. They formulate ideals in response to these ideas and hold them up before the world. The principles of brotherhood and of sharing are good examples of divine ideas intuited by advanced members of the human family. They have led to the establishment of the United Nations and other global organizations whose central mission is the betterment of humanity.
Those in our ranks who respond to such ideas with truth and power are the sensitives among us, learning to “read the book of life” and to penetrate what the ancient sage, Patanjali, called “the raincloud of knowable things.” Humanity as a whole, we are told, is about to step onto the path of return to spirit, and those who “have eyes to see”—as the scriptures put it—are tasked with guiding, inspiring and giving direction to those among us who have not yet awakened spiritually. The intuitives who penetrate the “cloud of knowing” on subtle spiritual levels have a truly high calling, as alluded to in the following passage. They might be called rainmakers, or those who “precipitate” the unrevealed purposes of the divine into the world.
The raincloud (which the intuitives penetrate) is a symbol
of that area of the as yet unrevealed purposes of God which
can be immediately revealed if the…[illumined workers in
the world] care to "penetrate to the point of precipitation."
Saint Teresa of Avila uses a similar metaphor to describe the last of her four stages of the Path. These are outlined in When the Soul Awakens in the chapter on “Saints and Masters…”
The fourth stage, divine union, is likened
to copious rainfall [precipitation].
Saint Teresa, and the wise and sage among us, the divine intuitives, the seers and knowers of truth, can show us the way ahead. But each of us, in our own time, must make the journey ourselves. We have lifetimes ahead in which to achieve the goal, but this lifetime—during this unique period of transition into the new world—is an especially advantageous moment in which to make genuine progress on the way.
Each of us will move forward at our own pace through the portal in consciousness that is opening before us with the dawning of the Aquarian Era. Each will, in his or her own time, find the better way of living that spiritual existence offers, but different ones of us (within the ranks of the body corporate) will experience the transition—the initiation (or expansion into new awareness)—in different ways.
What we will experience will very much depend on whether we are in touch with the soul or not. Some will cling to material form. Some will awaken to new ideals and find a higher purpose for living. Some will move into greater light. There is, no doubt, a mixture of these three phases of human experience in most of us. We are “some of each,” as it were. The “stuff we are made of” is diverse, but, in general terms we can state that all human beings pass, one time or another, through three distinct phases:
As such, we are all on a journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary. And, as such—in some lifetime or another—each of us discovers the essential second step that makes ultimate achievement possible. We become idealists, which means that we learn to idealize with skill and purpose. We become (in some small measure) like Saint Teresa and the sages of old: apprentices in co-creation—learning to register ideas held in the mind of God, and give them body and form in the world. This capacity is part of the extraordinary potential of the human being. As conscious citizens of the kingdom of souls—in touch with the animating Presence of the Divine—we are meant to bring the energies of the spiritual kingdom into living demonstration on earth.
In the early stages of the Path, we barely glimpse our true spiritual potential. We struggle as “aspirants” to spiritual life, which basically means that we are striving to live as souls, while making our way in the world. The trials of life that confront us, as aspirants to soul living, are (as the wisdom teachings tell us) designed to test us—to reveal to what extent we are capable of “living in two worlds simultaneously”: the world of the soul from which we have come, and the world of the lower self—the threefold personality—into which we have been born.
In the realm of the soul we are beings of light, of consciousness, of spiritual energy and power. Our qualities include truth, beauty, goodness, love, and wisdom. Our motives express sacrifice and service. These energies and qualities are an intrinsic part of soul existence, soul awareness, and soul identity.
As divine beings—souls created in the image of God—we have extraordinary potential, yet few of us have manifested this potential in the world of form in which we live. Many of us are, in fact, still at the beginning stages of reorientation to the hidden realm of the soul. We are caught between two worlds, as it were, and are suffering the pain and difficulty that people at this midway point inevitably confront. The shift from one world to the other is never easy, and often takes lifetimes to finally work out. Yet, each of us, in the course of evolution, at the appropriate point of readiness in our own journey (after lifetimes of “tough learning”), will come sufficiently awake to re-orient ourselves on the wheel of life. We will make the painful adjustments in our values and life attitude that spiritual living demands, and will change direction from material to spiritual living. We will finally become fully ensconced upon the Path of Ascent back to the spiritual source from which we have issued forth.
In this context, learning to formulate ideals and striving to embody them is a natural first step towards shifting our worldview in this higher direction.
Edgar Cayce offered his followers a spiritual discipline built on this principle. He suggested that we write down our ideals—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—and set a goal to achieve these ideals in a given period, perhaps six months or a year. During that time, each day we should apply that which we know to do, and work towards each of these goals, aiming to become our ideal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves. At the end of the period (and periodically during the cycle) he suggested that we make an assessment of “how we are doing” on each level. Once we have achieved that which we have been aiming toward, in any of these areas, he encouraged us to repeat the process and write down a new set of ideals and work to achieve them. If put into practice, this self-initiated discipline can change a person’s orientation towards life and establish a firm foundation for meeting the challenges on the Path of Return.
This one sensible technique can assist the sincere seeker to grow in self-mastery. It can teach the diligent student the power of ideals, and the creative power of the mind as an essential tool for building and “creating our own reality.” This is a helpful tool in learning to live a spiritual life, intelligently and practicably. It also provides (when applied with diligence) a foundation for mastering the human ability to respond to divine ideas. It teaches us the fundamentals of spiritual living, and moves us a little closer towards the fulfillment of our destiny as human beings, which is to become conscious mediators in the creative chain of life.
Many of us have already begun this phase of the journey—seeking to live for higher ideals and purposes. Some began in the 60s, others joined hands in the 80s when we first sang “We are the World.” We stood up for “what is right” and declared our idealism to our fellow citizens of earth. We longed to change the world, and, hopefully, in the effort to move towards the ideal, some of us have succeeded in changing ourselves—in some meaningful way. We are not the same people we once were. And collectively, it can be argued, we may also have made an impact on the world. The world is not the same that it once was either. At the very least, the idealistic initiatives of our younger days have set things in motion towards a new and better life for all. Or so we would choose to believe.
The wisdom teachings assure us that if we add the power of mind to the formulation of ideals, we can produce even greater results. Whether alone or working with others in groups, we can increase our power to effect change once we learn “to think” as well as to idealize. Thinking is much more potent and longer lasting than mere feeling.
To think is to be creative…for mind is “the builder.” We become what we think. Thoughts are things, and we (whom some might call “thinkers in training”) are the creators of thoughts that can powerfully change the world—either for good or for ill.
“To think things through into manifestation” is an esoteric definition of meditation, based on the fact that meditation involves the lifting up of mind and heart towards spiritual realms, and the subsequent attunement to the downpouring energies issuing forth from the soul—with the goal of making that which is contacted in meditation a meaningful part of the outer world.
By aligning with the divine thought currents pouring down into the world, by consciously “tuning in” to receive impression of divine ideas, we learn to become co-creators with the divine Plan from whence these ideas emanate. We learn to work in cooperation with the Custodians of the Plan—the Masters of Wisdom—the forces of light and love Who guide planetary evolution.
Thinking is an amazing power that should not be underestimated. The phrasing used in the wisdom teachings to describe the crucial second stage of spiritual growth confirms this. The seeker at the second phase is called the “Thinking Idealist,” not merely an idealist. A distinction is made between the thoughtful embracing of an idea (by mentally developed human beings) and the impulsive emotionalism of those who are called “starry-eyed idealists.”
Many who took part in Hands Across America were, no doubt, “starry-eyed.” But none of us are the same people we once were. Many of us have learned to think a bit more effectively these days and, as a result, are quite hopeful for the future. We are hopeful because we know, from personal practice, something of the power of the mind to change human experience. And a few of us have worked hard to establish an habitually spiritual way of thinking that trusts in the invocative power of collective envisioning, and group meditation, to create a world of our choosing.
We know that it is not enough to be an idealist. We must each, in our own time, become thinking idealists. We must learn to think as souls—to think in our hearts—for “as a man thinks in his heart so is he.” It is through the use of the creative imagination (thinking in the heart) that we build the bridge in consciousness between the lower aspect of our selves, the personality, and the higher aspect, the soul. It is through the power of will and the eventual fusion of heart and mind (consciously thinking in the heart) that the divine ideas—the elements of the divine Plan that can be contacted in the silence of our souls—can become realities in the world.
The divine thought-forms of the good, the true and the beautiful—held in sacred stillness within the raincloud of knowable things on the inner planes, are awaiting precipitation into the world. The principles of brotherhood and of unity that exist in the interconnected realm of the soul must be invoked by the integrated, thinking servers of the race.
The challenge is to bring the ideal down from the realm of the Real (the realm of the soul) into material expression. Experienced thinkers and knowers of reality are needed if we are to dynamically and powerfully bring divine ideas across the psychic bridge that links the human psyche to the Real, and turn these ideas into effective, living demonstrations of spiritual reality on earth.
An extraordinary shift in understanding of who we are as human beings and what our role is as “citizens of this world” is essential…if we are to realize the possible future that awaits humanity in the Age of Aquarius. One of the first signs that we are ready to make this shift will be our collective ability to think clearly. Another will be our willingness as a race to take responsibility for the planet. Given the planetary crisis of our time, we would do well to ask ourselves: Are we ready to come to its aid? — to serve the many lives—in all the kingdoms of nature—with whom we share this space? As citizens of a world in crisis, are we ready to assume responsibility for the whole of which we are part?
We stand on the threshold of recognizing the reality of our true nature as human beings—as thinkers, as co-creators with divinity. We are extraordinary beings in-the-making, readying ourselves to claim our true spiritual identity as souls, but first we must take a giant step forward in our spiritual growth and take conscious responsibility for the earth on which we dwell.
The Tibetan teacher, Djwhal Khul, alluded repeatedly to the time of crisis we are now experiencing. In one instance, he spoke of this “point of crisis” in the language of esoteric astrology:
[A]t this time, we are at a point of crisis...for the first time in
its history, humanity is beginning to mount the Fixed Cross of
the disciple... Humanity—as a whole...owing to the large
proportion of aspirants and thinking idealists—is entering
For the first time in history, there are enough “thinking idealists” among us that we can, collectively—as citizens of the planet—register the reality of the Path of Discipleship and the greater sense of responsibility to our fellow travelers that entering the Path entails.
The Path of Discipleship—in its more advanced stages—involves the unfoldment of the love nature and achieving the illumination that comes with genuine soul contact. A further phase of spiritual development is the Path of Initiation, which involves the higher alignment of the soul and personality—together as a cooperative unit—with the true spiritual Self. It is an advanced stage of spiritual growth where the “soul-infused personality” comes into conscious alliance with the will of God, the will-to-good, and the true spiritual purpose behind planetary evolution.
As individuals we may stand at different places on the Path of Return, but the fact is “we are all in this together.” We stand together on the threshold of new and extraordinary spiritual possibilities.
 Bob Geldof was also an organizer of Sport Aid.
 The five kingdoms of nature are the mineral, plant, animal, human and spiritual kingdoms. Humanity, the fourth kingdom in nature, is the link between the spiritual world, which lies above, and the “lesser kingdoms” below.
 Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. II, p. 213.
 When the Soul Awakens, pp. 179-80.
 The three bodies of the personality are the physical, emotional, and mental bodies, working together as a unit in the fully integrated “lower self.”
 One of the early students of the Ageless Wisdom, Vera Stanley Alder, states in From the Mundane to the Magnificent (p. 127), “Astrology is the greatest of all sciences—in fact it is the father of all sciences.”
 Aquarius is one of four “fixed signs” on what astrologers call “the Fixed Cross” consisting of Taurus, Scorpio, Leo, and Aquarius. From one angle, the word “fixed” refers to the attaining of a “fixed” or established re-orientation away from the world of form and towards the realm of spirit. It means becoming “fixed” in a spiritual direction on the path of return.
 Disciples are those who seek to cooperate with the Divine Plan—to serve humanity and strive for the greatest good for the greatest number.
 As hinted at above, the first stage of the Path is called the Path of Aspiration (aspiration to life as a soul). The “more advanced” stage of the Path referred to here is that of “Accepted Discipleship” where the individual is consciously in touch with the soul, learning to “love his neighbor as himself” in service to humanity, and learning, as well, to cooperate consciously with the unfolding divine Plan.
 The first true initiation is called the Transfiguration. It is described in the wisdom teachings as occurring "with the alignment of the soul-infused personality with the will aspect of divinity." It has been embodied in historical figures such as the Christ on Mount Tabor, Moses on Mount Sinai, and Gautama Buddha seated under the Boddhi tree.