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Ambition, Impersonality and the Mountain Top Experience

Jan Nation
December 2009

Jan nation 1995

Jan (Janet) Nation died on January 7, 2001, 2 days before the Capricorn full moon. She delivered the following paper at the Lucis Trust Meditation Meeting in London in 1993, when she was Chair of Lucis Trust for the Commonwealth.

Friends, welcome to this Capricorn Festival meeting. The full moon meditation cycle is a universal ritual and rhythm which, on subjective levels, must be making a significant contribution to the awakening of the soul of humanity. Perhaps it's a far more effective contribution than we may credit. For it is a ritual and rhythm that coincides with the strongest flow of spiritual energy into human consciousness. More than this, there are now so many groups and individuals who dedicatedly apply themselves to this selfless service.

Today we celebrate the festival of Capricorn. Capricorn is known as the sign of the mountain top experience. In the language of symbols, the individual or group reaching the mountain top sees the whole for the first time. Until then the many observation points on the way to the summit have only provided a partial view, a hint of the harmonies and oneness that the initiate experiences on reaching the mountain top.

The man, woman or group strongly influenced by Capricorn yet spiritually immature and unable to respond to this influence as a soul, will find themselves drawn to the mirage of the mountain top experience on the astral plane. Such individuals can be ambitious, proud, hard and selfish in the extreme. The keywords upon the ordinary wheel in Capricorn are:"And the Word said: Let ambition rule and let the door stand wide". This they do - let ambition rule. They can be ruthless in their efforts to get to what they think is "the top", but for the wrong reasons and the summit they reach is not the summit of the mountain range that calls the disciple to give of his or her best. On the astral levels there are many illusory mountain tops to climb.

Initiates in Capricorn have ambition too. However the ambition that fires their efforts is the ambition to serve: to serve the vision that unfolds before their astonished gaze; to serve humanity; to serve the world; to serve the Great Ones. Initiates in Capricorn have entered into a higher level of awareness. They have passed through the portal of initiation and stand within the periphery of the Ashram. Their ambition is transmuted by long experience on the path of life which has taught them that it is the qualities of compassion, wisdom, courage and love which ensures safe passage to the mountain top. Ambition now goes hand-in-hand with true humility, for the disciple on the mountain-top sees more clearly something of the glory of the One, and therefore knows a little more accurately his or her place in the configuration of greater and lesser lights that constitutes the Forces for Good on planet Earth.

O Thou Who givest sustenance to the universe,
From Whom all things proceed
To Whom all things return,
Unveil to us the place of the true Spiritual Sun
Hidden by a disc of golden Light
That we may know the Truth
And do our whole duty
As we journey to Thy sacred feet.

The Alice Bailey teachings give a keyword sounded or said by the soul for each sign of the zodiac. There are, therefore, twelve keywords in all, and they affirm the goals of the disciple on the reversed wheel in the twelve signs. We can think of these twelve keywords as, together, revealing the nature of humanity's spiritual path, as seen through the lens of the zodiac. They chart the "whole duty" of humanity, the world disciple.

Actually, I should correct myself, because the keyword is described as being sounded or said by the soul in only eleven of the signs. In Scorpio the soul does not say the word. Instead it chants or sings it. Scorpio is the sign in which the disciple triumphs over the glamours that obstruct the way of light and love. The keyword the soul chants or sings in Scorpio is the word of victory over these obstacles: "Warrior I am, and from the battle I emerge triumphant." Triumph in Scorpio allows the disciple to respond to the goals of Sagittarius and now, in Capricorn, to scale to the mountain summit. No wonder, when we think of the obstacles that the disciple faces in Scorpio - the obstacles of appetite, desire and the lower critical mind - that in Scorpio the keyword is sung out in triumph.

The disciple who has triumphed in Scorpio, visioned the goal in Sagittarius, and now reached the summit of the mountain in Capricorn has been tested in every aspect of his or her being. It's not surprising then, that the keyword in Capricorn is similar to the keyword for Pisces, the sign of the world saviour. So what are these two keywords? In Capricorn the word of the soul is: "Lost am I in light supernal, yet on that light I turn my back." In Pisces the keyword is: " I leave the Father's home and turning back, I save."

In both signs the disciple has reached the place of bliss: on the one hand, the light supernal; on the other, the Father's house. And in both he turns his back on what lies ahead. In Capricorn he turns to face the conditions of which he has just struggled so desperately to free himself. In Aquarius the power of love and service fills his being and inspires him to return in Pisces as the saviour.

The light supernal is described as "that central Life or Energy which holds hid within Itself the purpose and plan towards which all Being tends" [Alice Bailey, Treatise on White Magic, p. 211]. It is created by the blending of the seven energies of the seven rays. From the esoteric point of view the promises of the new era can be seen to depend, primarily, upon the precipitation of this light supernal into the three worlds of human consciousness. We can sense, therefore, the value of the sacrifice and effort of those who reach the mountain top and become channels for the precipitation of this extraordinary, revealing light. The Father's house is Shamballa, the "centre where the Will of God is known". It is the place of pure purpose, of stillness and of peace. The experience of the disciple's "whole duty" in Capricorn and Pisces, then, is to turn from the place of bliss and pure intention in order to serve those in need who struggle in the plains and valleys and on the slopes of the mountain of initiation.

Often we limit our understanding to the linear patterns of the intellect. From this perspective the challenge of Capricorn seems impossible of achievement. If you are lost in bliss - and the word is "lost" - lost in the light supernal, how can you turn away? And even if you wanted to, how would you find your way back to the pathway down the mountainside to help those in need?

If we interpret the keyword with the intuition, however, we see the challenge differently. In Capricorn, to stand on the summit, lost in light supernal, is to change, and to change profoundly. To quote from the teachings: "...The interlocking forces of all the twelve constellations, as they pour into and through all the kingdoms in nature, [carry] with them... not only their own individual potencies but also those of the seven rays, focused through the sacred and non-sacred planets... It has been occultly said that a vision of these powers and their many weaving lines (seen as rivers and streams of light) is given to the initiate from the mountain top of Capricorn, once that summit has been reached." [Alice Bailey, A Treatise on the Seven Rays, Vol. III, Esoteric Astrology, p. 167]

To be lost in the light supernal is to be responsive to the flow of these rivers and streams of light, swept onward by that flow as it is experienced by the human soul into fuller service. And symbolically to turn your back on the summit is not to leave it. That vision, and that inner certainty and bliss it brings, cannot be left behind. For the initiate it lives, and its light shines no matter how appalling the outer circumstances of life as the path of service in the valleys unfolds.

I read a most interesting article recently by Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer, who was awarded the Nobel literature prize in 1991. In this article she writes about Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his being awarded the Nobel peace prize earlier this year. She describes the inspiration he gives people of goodwill in her country. She highlights his leadership and diplomatic skills; his earthiness and his sincere capacity for forgiveness. She writes about the way in which he remembers people he has only met briefly, sometimes even years ago, saying: "This is no trick of political showmanship. Seemingly insignificant, it is a sign of something profound: a removal from self-centeredness; the capacity to live for others that is central to his character." She points out that these qualities are recognised by unexpected constituencies in South Africa, citing the fact that a recent poll of South African businessmen revealed that 68% wish to see Nelson Mandela as the future president of South Africa.

However what struck me, in relation to this Capricorn talk, was a comment she makes on leadership and ambition: "...There are two kinds of leaders. There is the man or woman who creates the self - his/her life - out of the drive of personal ambition, and there is the man or woman who creates a self out of response to people's needs. To the one, the drive comes narrowly from within, to the other, it is a charge of energy that comes from others' needs and the demands these make. Mandela's dynamism of leadership is that he has within him the selfless quality to receive and act upon this charge of energy."

What I like, in particular, about this comment is the image it gives of the energy flow of the path. If the little self is centre-stage it is not possible to enter the flow of the rivers of love and light that link the light supernal with those in need. If we serve as a soul, we serve within this precipitating energy flow of life. True service depends upon a loving heart and a wise and informed intelligence. The initiate on the mountain-top of Capricorn turns to those in need because his heart is at-one with them. A flow of energy is created soul-to-soul. And this is an inevitable effect of entry into a higher realm of consciousness where the true nature of the soul, its universality, is consciously experienced.

The Dalai Lama gives insights on the nature of this energy flow between universal levels of awareness and the threefold human realms, where suffering can be so acute. The compassion he talks about is a universal force. It flows to all beings without limitation. He challenges those who listen to him to feel for all who suffer, regardless of any outer criteria that might limit compassion. And he lives this openheartedness in forgiveness of the Chinese for the terrible suffering of the Tibetan people. Through this forgiveness and through his spiritual awareness, he and those who serve as he does, are able to be a conscious channel for the flow of the universal energy of compassion into human consciousness.

I don't know if either Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama have Capricorn prominent in their horoscopes, but disciples draw on the gifts of their experiences in all signs and on the energies of all of the rays. And, in the challenge of providing visionary leadership, they will be drawing on the Capricornian experience of humanity, the world disciple.

I've dwelt a little on the example these two world servers give of responding to the universal nature of the energies that flow in service from the mountaintop to the valley. To rise to the special challenges of Capricorn, we also need to understand and practice impersonality and the skills of detachment or perhaps, we could call it, right attachment. That makes sense doesn't it, if right ambition is a particular crisis of Capricorn? We need to be able to dis-identify with our little self and find our true identity as a Soul if we are to transform personal ambition into skilled cooperation with those who work on the inner side of life in the Ashram of the Christ. For to be a reliable co-worker with the forces for good our little self cannot be centre-stage. It is not a reliable lens through which to vision the work to be done.

Impersonality is a strange word. It has negative connotations of hardness or lack of love. In the dictionary it is defined as follows: "having no personality or personal reference or tone." Quite clearly, the impersonality the disciple cultivates is not the state of "having no personality". Our personality is the precious creation of the Soul over long periods of incarnation, destined to become the form through which the highest aspects of consciousness will manifest in human affairs. But the second part of that dictionary definition - "no personal reference or tone" - is nearer the mark. To be impersonal is to achieve a state of mind where our perception of events is not distorted by constant comparison or reference to our personal concerns and advantages. It implies a universal, dispassionate stance where events are seen in a truer light.

The problems that arise when the personality of the server dominates, undermine many initiatives that seem full of promise. Servers can be so "full" of the sense of the little self that, over time, their spiritual vision and efforts are gradually "stepped down to that level". As a result their service is coloured by their personal prejudices, likes and dislikes. Instead of demonstrating the spirit of the new age what we find, then, are old separative patterns clothed in the language of the new. "It is so easy to be glamoured by the beauty of one's own ideals and vision, and by the supposed rectitude of one's own position, and yet all the time be influenced subjectively by love of personal power, individual ambition, jealousy of other workers, and the many traps which catch the feet of the unwary disciple." [Alice Bailey, A Treatise on White Magic, p. 625].

To elevate loving impersonality to its rightful place in our spiritual practice is to recognise an essential element in the creation of sound foundations for the new era. "...If true impersonality is cultivated, if the power to stand steady is developed, if every situation is handled in a spirit of love and if there is a refusal to take hasty action and to permit separation to creep in, then there will be the growth of a group of true servers, and the gathering out of those who can materialise the plan and bring to birth the new age and its attendant wonders." [Alice Bailey, A Treatise on White Magic, p. 625].

Perhaps we should always preface the word impersonality with the adjective "loving". That way we capture its essence. I recently read an advert in a magazine for workshops or seminars that were designed to help people with weight problems. The ad placed emphasis on semantics and positive thinking. It described the aim of the workshop as "weight release". The argument given was that the term "weight loss" undermined any efforts to lose weight, as the word "loss" implies a negative state. You want to regain or find what you lose. Whereas the word "release" allows a positive approach.

If our response to the idea of impersonality is negative we will do well to think again and, as in this rather crude analogy, name the word more fully; it is loving impersonality, and it goes in tandem with the universal perspective.

Detachment is a related quality and is essential in responding to the tests of Capricorn. Detachment can, like impersonality, easily be misunderstood - like impersonality, be thought of as cold and unfeeling. Detachment can conjure up the image that somehow when we let go we float off into a vacuum.

Instead we have to visualise the next rung in the ladder. In other words, we stand back from the immediacy of our circumstances, from the turmoil of our emotions, from the busy activity of the intellect, by attaching ourselves firmly to a higher level of consciousness. Detachment isn't something we achieve once and for all. It's a talent, a gift, a skill we progressively cultivate throughout the journey to enlightenment.

Detachment from the lower is achieved through attachment to the higher. Some people find it easy to cut themselves off from others and do so without love. That's a distortion of the true detachment of the path which, like impersonality, is lovingly expressed if it is expressed with soul energy. Detachment from the lower is a standing back from our relationships and environment. Attachment to the higher is sensitivity to the link soul-to-soul which exists between us all.

The disciple strives towards the summit of vision and love. The image of the climbing process of the mountaineer is a telling one. If we don't stabilise ourselves at the place where we are there is danger, we could fall or lose our spiritual poise. If we don't have the detachment to see the overall purpose of our journey, we won't recognise the next step. If we haven't cultivated the needed skills we won't have secured the next foot-hold. Then there is the brave step forward. If we can't let go and move on at the right time, we won't reach the summit.

The goal of right detachment is a constant challenge on the path. For at each step we need to reach a point where we are not hindered or held back in the service we need to give and yet what we do should not harm or hurt.

Humanity is immersed in a sea of glamour, accustomed to it on every side, and this makes it very difficult for us to realise the extent to which we are attached to things that are completely unreal. We can be so attached to ourselves, our image of others, so attached to our ideas and so on, that, to use the Tibetan's words, "their clatter and their rattle prevent awareness of the golden thread which links us with another soul". Detachment is the breaking the chains of sentiment, habit, fear, authority that prevent our awareness of the soul of others. Those chains "must break, leaving only a golden thread between each soul - a golden thread which cannot break". [Alice Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. I, p. 312]

Detachment enables us to see more clearly. If we stand back we can see things in a truer light and we may not like what we see. We may see that any number of glamours are swinging us off-beam. Only by standing back and honestly reviewing our life can we recognise the hold of these glamours, and this is the essential first step in gaining release from them. Only when we stand back can we see whether the vision that inspires us is, "a child of our mind" or "a child of our soul".

One image I particularly like of this challenge of detachment and how there needs to be a right relationship between attachment and detachment in the life of the integrated whole and loving soul, is given in Discipleship in the New Age Vol. I. It is a quotation from a very ancient text. "...Before the gateway of each newborn day, which holds within its sealed hours ordered responsibility, each morn I stand. I cry aloud: 'Lord of my life, how can I do the duty of this day yet seek detachment? Meet every need yet free myself from ties and bonds?' God said: 'The sun draws near and vivifies the earth. Naught can it take from out the earth. Live likewise. Give and ask nought!'." [Alice Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age Vol. I, pp. 392-3]

The warmth and light of the sun symbolises the energy of love, abundantly given to all life on earth - and the sun is ever the symbol of impartial love. Its 'place' in the solar system symbolises balance between detachment and attachment. Earth needs to be as far and as close as it is now from the sun for life as we know it to flourish.

The disciple on the mountain top in Capricorn is one whose personal ambition has been transmuted into a fiery will-to-serve-the-Plan. This is the man, woman or group who consciously experiences the golden thread of light which links humanity soul-to-soul, and freely chooses to turn away from the mountain top of spiritual bliss in order to serve as a beacon of light for those who struggle in the darkness.

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