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We are very fortunate to have Tom Carney of Arcana Workshops,
as a guest commentator this month. You can read a brief bio on Tom here:

The Next Step

By Tom Carney
November 2005

Ah Scorpio, Scorpio how nice it is to see you again. The thing I like about Scorpio is that it is so dependable. But most everyone carries on about the tests of Scorpio, which, of course are a Scorpio thing. And, if there is another thing about Scorpio that shines, besides its dependability, it is the thoroughness of its tests.

How well we know that Scorpio tests everything. In fact, being somewhat below the level of Masters, is there anyone who doesn't get just a tiny little bit paranoid in Scorpio. I mean when the hard drive crashed on my computer, I was immediately thinking about what I did that made the Karmic Lords send me that message. Of course, several friends were right on the spot offering me helpful suggestions of possible transgressions of which there were and usually are an unlimited supply…of transgressions, I mean.

Anyway, I think that we get so wound up in the tests we overlook the real function of Scorpio which has not so much to do with the test thing as it has to do with delivering messages regarding one's current orientation. The actual test is just the process, or the medium, we could call it, that Scorpio uses to inform the walker about the correctness of the direction in which he is taking himself. This whole part of the system is, one might say, intelligently designed to enable the walker to make those most essential and enlightened adjustments to one's course in Sagittarius.

Let me explain.

We can start with Libra, in which we weigh and choose, and make no mistake, choice is unavoidable. If one walks, if one just breathes, one is obliged to make choices. The walker is faced with a fork in the road. Here it is instructive to consider this issue about the One Path. Let us recall that without diversity there will be no unity. How can there be a unity of one? Unity is always plural and a minimum set is two. So, consider the number and kinds of possible forks in the many, many paths along which the 6 or 7 billions of humans are moving. The choosing is unavoidable-just to keep from running into one another. However, as the Master M has pointed out, the choice of many people, as it works out in Scorpio, is to fall down the stairs rather than look at the next step. Lots of us are not really that into the "weighing" part of Libra. But what, precisely, is involved in "looking at the next step?"

Many of us, having been tested and found wanting by our friend, Scorpio, while picking ourselves up at the bottom of the stairs and consulting our multiple bruises, will complain mightily. With loud voices and lots of indignation, we will insist that we had indeed looked at the next step. And so we had.

Eventually, after the delivery of many such messages by the ever watchful Karmic Lords or proctors, it comes to us to consider as we are picking ourselves up and dusting off from yet another fall, that perhaps the next step does not lead down. Perhaps we need to look in another direction. Perhaps the next step leads up.

The downward leading step, the one which we had consulted, perhaps even planned, was not the real next step, but rather the continuation of the previous step on the frequently very gently downward sloping path of familiarity and comfort that we have been following as we wandered around during many incarnations in the realms of maya, glamour, and illusion, always experiencing, and sometimes even learning. Eventually these rather mindless meanders will lead us, the travelers, to a culminating, saving and unseen precipice over which we must plunge.

Perhaps a couple of graphic examples will help clarify: Years of smoking, even after the coughing starts, ends with heart disease, or in-operable emphysema and a slow painful death. A steady diet of Big Mack foods ends with the loss of a significant part of one's stomach and or intestines and perhaps heart disease. A developed and cultivated and persistent habit of anger will eventually lead to a violent and possibly early death, perhaps in the form of a shoot out, or on a more contemporary note, a traffic accident, or literally falling down the stairs during an anger fit. Likewise, developed and cultivated feelings of hubris, of self pity, of fearfulness all ultimately lead to rather powerful notices for the need of correction.

In each of these cases, there have been, of course, multiple early warnings from the Proctors: The coughing up of large clumps of thick yellow phlegm, the growing waist line and the frequent and worsening attacks of indigestion and high blood pressure, numerous small accidents, the loss of friends leading to deeper and deeper self centeredness and isolation, perhaps a broken leg, or seriously injuring or even accidentally killing some other person or animal, the increasing deepness and darkness of bouts of depression and loneliness and so forth. One could go on for days, but we do get the idea.

In the modern language of the people, we refer to these events, these notices as "Wake up calls" or perhaps "Wake up falls" would be better. Depending on the sensitivity of the traveler to the voice of the inner guide, these calls vary in intensity. If the traveler does not hear the wake up call, Life will arrange for him or her to, in time, have another. Each of these calls, it seems, gets louder until, eventually, one hears the clarion call of the soul, turns him or herself around and starts on the upward way. Or, one simply ends the incarnation with a lot of experience but not much learning. Each of us, having experienced any number of these messages from within, are more than slightly familiar with this bit of Path Lore.

So, let us look at what constitutes the real "next steps."

One of the earliest of these next steps is the realization that each of us must determine for him or herself just what that step is. Many of us have depended for a very long time on the guidance, suggestions and often the manipulations of others to point out the next step for us. This habit is in itself by way of a learning experience, and here, the 3rd labor of Hercules is worth looking into.

Steps suggested by well meaning friends and acquaintances are often very good suggestions, for them. However, because the friend, does not really understand or appreciate the skills and conditions of the person for whom he is making the suggestion, these efforts to help often simply add to the person's problems. Being unable to implement the suggestions, because one does not have the necessary equipment or level of will or whatever to do so, undermines what self confidence one does have. So a very first next step for many of us is to realize that only the guidance that comes from within, from one's innermost self is true guidance.

Thus, a first step on the Path of return for many, many disciples is to learn to look within for one's guidance. Looking within, however, is in itself fraught with pit-falls and is not an easy path. The Arch Deluder hangs out on this path in many disguises and in many venues. As Alistair Moody frequently cautioned, "Constant Vigilance" is required, and to that I would add working, by which I mean learning to meditate. This work, learning to meditate, proceeds best if done within a group of fellow disciples. Group work offers the best safety for the returning one.

Contrary to common suppositions, the need for group work increases as one moves deeper into the Light of reality. The group presence helps protect the individuals from the ever more sophisticated pits and snares on the Path. Even more important, the group presence enables each walker to actually embody and handle the increasing brilliance and potency of the Light with safety and protection for one's vehicles.

This very basic piece of Path Lore is especially important when one begins to actually contact the Ashram. After a certain level of soul/personality fusion is a fact, one may actually begin to work with an inner guide, someone other than one's own soul, a helper, a member of the inner Ashram, an elder brother on the inner side. True guides of this sort never tell the walker where to go, what to do, how to do it. True inner guidance never infringes on the free will of the walker. What would be the point of that?

Suggestions are made; opportunities for service are indicated, but these are never out of the realm of the disciple's ability to implement. What, again, would be the point of that? The Ashram is interested in seeing the Plan manifest; it needs disciples to do this aspect of the work. "The disciple in the Hierarchy can give that Plan an abstract form, but its birth in the three worlds depends upon the ability of the disciple in the body of humanity to grasp that abstraction, to embody it and to give it concrete form." The R Archives "The Divine Plan" p.3

Also, true inner guidance will never involve the necessity for the disciple to avoid his current responsibilities, his responsibilities to family and co-workers for example. Again we could ask, "What would be the point of that?" If there is anything that stands out in the quality of the guidance that one will receive it is the common sense, practicality and the service to the common good that imbues it.

So, we might say that "Looking at the next step" is a major preoccupation of the disciple. A few basic indicators are that the next step always, even if it is minutely incremental, leads into the future, into the as yet undiscovered country. Anyone who has done much hiking or climbing knows, often from jolting experience, that when one is on an unfamiliar trail, one watches where one places one's feet. One develops the habit of looking carefully at the next step. We should never, by the way, mistake caution for cowardice.

As the disciple moves up the trail of consciousness, his vision expands with his consciousness. The physical parallel of this is how our view of the countryside expands and changes as we move higher up the face of a mountain trail. Our horizon expands; we begin to see intersections and unions that we could not see before. Our sense of the whole expands, and we begin to have a better understanding and sense of the One.

This is precisely how consciousness expands. As we move up the mountain of consciousness, we gradually move up out of the myopic view of the self centered person. Gradually we begin to see how things are connected, how our behavior does indeed affect those around us, especially the close ones like our spouses and children and our co-workers. Gradually we see that there is indeed only one field: only one etheric body, only one emotional body and only one mental body. Gradually we come to understand that we share this one field with those who are close to us.

Gradually we make these realizations, and gradually we come to see that the ancient phrase, "the One in whom we live and move and have our being" has deeper meanings than those with which we have become so accustomed. On this level of the mountain, "The One in whom we live and move and have our being" is us, is each other. Together we are the One Humanity.

Eventually, the hiker or climber on the mountain will break out above the tree line. As any hiker knows, there are significant changes in the view as well as in the atmosphere, in conditions, in the very substance of the trail and the climb. His view will no longer be obscured by the forest in which he has been traveling. Temperatures become more extreme. And the light becomes intense. Even so, trails become obscure in the rock surfaces. The surfaces being much harder, are frequently slippery and unforgiving. Mistakes or missteps are more harshly noticed. Adjustments and results occur much more quickly.

On the trail of consciousness as we move from the easily identifiable, categories, from the density and logic of thoughtforms into the formless realms of Ideas, there are no trails. There is only meaning.

Such is the case for the disciple when taking that next step, the step that, after years, lives, actually finally leads the disciple above the swirling confusion of maya, the mists of glamour and the forests of thoughtforms. This is the step that leads the disciple above the tree line of the worlds of form, and into the light of truth. Or, as our Teacher in an earlier incarnation fashioned it, out of the cave and into the dazzling light of the sun. Plato, The Republic, Book VII

This transition is probably different for different people. In some cases, as it does on some mountains, the trail will very gradually lead up, the trees will become thinner and eventually one finds one's self standing in the clear light of the day. Due to the dazzling nature of the situation, the fact of this condition may go un-registered for some time, but eventually the light of the sun will shine in the consciousness of the disciple and he will realize that he is standing stable and truly in the undiscovered, formless World of Ideas. Thus, an entire new universe will lie before the amazed traveler.

Two realizations break in almost simultaneously. First, the walker will be able to see those with whom he has been walking. He will see that he is and, but for his ability to register it, has always been part of a group. And, secondly, he will realize that the adventure, the real adventure has just begun.

For the disciple, from this point forward everything changes. He has learned through lifetimes of daily struggle the ways of the Way. He is an experienced path walker. His reward has been a glimpse of the Endless Way, and yet because he feels very strongly his kinship with humanity, he will turn back to them and descend into the cave and begin the work of salvage, the work, without which he would have never been able to attain the summit of this mountain. In the end, it is our love of our fellow human beings that both gets us to the mountaintop and which causes us to turn back to try to help those who follow behind, help as we were helped. And this realization, friends, is the deep message of Scorpio. It concerns the upward step that leads us down into service.

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