Five Aspects of the Theosophical Path
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
1. Circumstances and Self-Determination
Theosophy invites us to examine the power of circumstances over life.
As we think of changing our existence, we must ask ourselves what precisely is it that we want to change. What are the obstacles to happiness? Are they in the circumstances themselves, or in the way we relate to them?
He who can only look outside will believe the external situation should change for him to have comfort and satisfaction. If we have strength enough to look at ourselves, however, we’ll see something of fundamental importance: it is by changing ourselves that we eliminate the Source of Discomfort. This does not exclude external change: but it gives us the strength to make needed changes in peace, and to calmly examine what changes are possible, necessary and worthwhile.
If we would change only the circumstances around us, we would soon get tired of the new situation. We would then have a desire for other external changes, and look for “novelties” again and again, because of our lack of inner strength and absence of comfort in the relation with ourselves.
Any student of theosophy who is destined to win is in no hurry.
He goes ahead step by step along the way that leads from the life of circumstances, with its constant instability, to the stable existence of someone who knows what his goals are. Such a student learns to live the wisdom which he already knows. He widens his knowledge in cooperation with others, and thus sets the causes in motion of a true and unconditional happiness.
2. Learning to Fall, or Judo  in Theosophy
No one who makes a serious decision and gets committed to his own spiritual soul should think that the commitment is linear, conventional or mechanistic. At first it will be stable only in the inner space of his own consciousness, and not in the world. The pilgrim will make a thousand mistakes.
The question is not whether the pilgrim will fall or not. He will fall, and fail, one thousand and two hundred times. The first lesson in judo consists in learning to fall.
One must fall with a light body and a light soul. One must be both relaxed and flexible, having no attachment to the act of falling. While falling, one ought to immediately see and observe the way the fall or mistake is taking place. From the exact trajectory and position of the fall, and in its natural sequence, the pilgrim can raise himself in the same instant, paying full attention to the next movements of the fight. He will be able to identify opportunities and keep ready to fall again or to defeat his adversary. The enemy is basically his own ignorance.
As we learn to fall, we can use obstacles and contrary energies to our advantage. It is enough then to try our best and to have patience. Under these conditions, one will be able to study and observe the celestial realm while keeping the feet firm on the ground.
3. A Commitment in the Temple
When we know how to fall and to rise again, the foundations of one’s temple are strong and its walls are solid.
The divine temple is built in silence: worldly sounds do not get to it. [1]
The aura around this temple calms down the noise of the world while revealing the mysterious flow of eternal light and boundless life. The occult temple is not material. It cannot be destroyed by time. It exists and expands in the hearts of good-willing people.
According to theosophical literature, material temples have scarce value. The decision to travel along the sacred path must be made with full self-responsibility in the temple of one’s heart, the inner sanctuary inhabited by the immortal soul. It is in that place, too, that the decision to do one’s best must be preserved and regularly renewed during several incarnations. In the right moment of every existence, the commitment is rescued into the realm of voluntary life and renewed, with some difference in its wording, but having the same essential meaning.
A decision made in the heart’s temple accelerates the awakening of one’s higher self and protects him from the dangers of ignorance. The degree of actual protection depends on individual merit and the possibilities of collective karma.
The heart’s decision accelerates one’s karma. It reveals his weak points and mistakes to be corrected. The path is innerly luminous and externally steep. To walk along the road takes time: patience and perseverance are essential. Each difficulty is a lesson taught by Life. Every obstacle invites the pilgrim to eliminate one aspect or two of that accumulated ignorance which is at the root of human suffering.
By becoming a self-responsible researcher of the universal Law, the truth-seeker attains to the quiet bliss of unconditional happiness.
4. Higher Focus,  Antahkarana and Life-Change
In what ways can the abstract, invisible temple of immortal soul express itself in the world?
In order to do this, the temple depends on the lower part of Antahkarana, the bridge between the lower self and the immortal soul.
As we think of Antahkarana, we often visualize it as if our consciousness were located in the lower self. If this is true, expanding contact with the higher self means opening a large window towards the world above.
But what happens when one’s consciousness is focused with a special force in the higher self, due to an expansion of horizons and of depth in one’s own vision of life? What if someone is born in very different conditions than the ones prevailing in his previous life, a life during which he may have expanded his antahkarana in radical ways?   
An illustration of such a challenge can be found in the first chapters of the novel “The Idiot”, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  While the sixth principle (spiritual intelligence) is intensely active, there are strong limitations in the way the lower self works. The individual may have difficulties in self-control during the first part of life, unless he is surrounded by people who are capable of understanding him, of accompanying his inner experience of life and giving him elements that make it easier to develop his best potentialities.
The same contrast and danger exist for every individual. Childhood is the meeting point between the blessed condition of Devachan – the divine “place” where one lives before being born – and the hard conditions of physical life.
The difficulties faced by H. P. Blavatsky in her lower self are examples of the same contrast. The “madness” of St. Francis of Assisi during his youth, according to the legend of his life, is another example.  The healthy and harmless but “eccentric” behaviour of other persons who are guided by their higher selves is proverbial in various cultural traditions.
The special importance of developing self-knowledge, self-respect and self-control, which is taught in the “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, is due to the fact that these three factors are needed to support and stabilize the expansion of Antahkarana and the spiritual self.  One’s higher consciousness must be correctly managed in the lower self and its daily actions.
The main focus of one’s consciousness dominates that level of territory where it is preferably situated, and has a weaker influence over the levels of territory which are not “his own”. Anyone who expands his Antahkarana must simplify his life on the lower self plane, so that he can correctly manage it while keeping the main focus on a higher plane.
The pilgrim’s strength gets reduced in his lower self and regarding external subjects. He may be even considered a complete failure in these departments of life. He must renounce such forms of “life-struggle” and bless his “personal defeats”: they liberate him concentrate his focus on the abstract and elevated planes.
The act of leaving aside external objects and situations may be gradual. In most cases the antahkaranic expansion takes place step by step. But what happens if someone lives a powerful widening of Antahkarana during a short time or in a sudden way?
The abrupt increase of the higher self’s presence in the emotional and physical life of an individual whose structures are still conventional creates a strong storm in his consciousness. The intense “re-structuring” of the lower self may seem chaotic to those who observe the process, unless the transition is built step by step and after one clearly sees the whole of it.
In any case, the key to progress is a gradually increasing combination of self-knowledge, self-control and self-transformation.  To see a goal may be very quick; to walk towards it requires more time. A thorough change in the external life-structure of someone who had a deep insight about his own existence may be implemented after there is a project for change which is correct, effective, balanced, and ethically responsible. The project may then be put in practice step by step, being reevaluated after each major step.
When there is an individual awakening under the light of a correct pedagogical approach to theosophy, the change in life is not experienced as a rejection of that which is not useful any longer. There is a sense of gratefulness regarding all the previous phases in life. Change is made in order to build something larger and better. True detachment, which brings inner freedom, takes place side by side with a sincere gratitude.
In theosophy, the correct management of spiritual progress is a complex task, and of fundamental importance. It is equally decisive for those who live a slow and gradual expansion in their perception of life.
It is up to each student of philosophy to make sure his inner awakening changes outer life and his existence does not remain a victim of blind routine. It is the duty of anyone who seeks for truth – a duty to his own immortal soul and to everyone around him – to renew his world in a responsible and prudent way, so that his life can increasingly express the sunlight coming from his own Higher Self. And when the nice moments emerge, they must be lived in utter humbleness.
5. The Consolidation of Victory
In Theosophy it is not enough to win. One needs to consolidate the victory so that it becomes a long-term experience which gets gradually wider and deeper.
The danger of making mistakes does not exist only in defeat. Failure is a good teacher, and there is much to thank it for. On the other hand, the possibility of losing one’s good sense may be especially great in the moment of victory. If not received with humble detachment and serenity, victory will blind the naïve and the ill-informed. The moment of victory is decisive:  it may prepare a long succession of other victories; it can also open the door to a defeat that will reduce to nothing the progress made.  
One’s vocation for victory depends on discernment. He who has good sense does not change his attitude in victory or defeat. If receiving good news, he avoids superficial joy. He leaves to fools to make intense celebrations. When there is unpleasant news, he uses the inner energy accumulated during victories and faces suffering as serenely as possible, while searching for the secret gap and opportunity which can take him from defeat to victory. He remains stable along the ups and downs of life, because he knows that only calm allows him to build an enduring victory.
As we receive good news and see progress in our efforts, we must remember that our main goal belongs to long term time. Each victory is in fact a small step ahead, which we must consolidate in silence, while keeping a calm vigilance over our limitations.
[1] Like the building of Solomon’s temple: see 1 Kings, 6: 7.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.