The Sabian Aspirant
Membership in the Assembly
The real life and being of the Sabian Assembly are in the necessarily intangible participation of its members collectively in what occultism knows as an invisible fellowship. This is a term that has come into currency to emphasize the continual relationship maintained by the aspirant with the Great Ones who in their transcendental living have created man's spiritual history. The degree to which the individual student may be aware of this relationship, and be able in consequence to profit from it consciously, will vary of course in each case and in accordance with the particular stage of growth in understanding or of psychological unfoldment.
By participation in the invisible fellowship is meant more specifically the expenditure of effort and the development of aspiration directed in common toward the achievement of the goals envisioned in the spiritual history of the race, both for each person in his own right and collectively for all. It is said to be invisible because it reaches from mind to mind and from heart to heart without intervention or mediation by any tangible or limiting agency of any sort, and it is a fellowship because there is no possibility of quickening any such higher potential of human experience without a free sharing of whatever may come through its gaining. By spiritual is meant no more than illimitable, or that which is above and beyond the time-and-space lattice of involvement. The seeker comes to realize that it is through the involvements of so-called lower reality that men come to know their needless separations and blind competitions, and so find themselves arrayed against each other in lack of understanding and enmity.
Membership in the Assembly is contingent on a positive desire to participate in the invisible fellowship, and to have a role of at least some significance in furthering its goals. As a first step the aspirant must sign the Sabian neophyte pledge and assume a proper share of responsibility for the physical costs of the project. As a second and continuing step he must give faithful attention to the lesson materials, and in addition and before too long he should accept some one or more of the opportunities offered for specialized services and ramifying forms of self-dedication or increasing contribution of energy and means.
Since the invisible fellowship in its immediate reality is cradled in the practical world of everyday, where the prevailing cultural patterns add the psychological necessities of personal existence to the more obvious physiological ones, all Sabian procedures are shaped to further a personal well-being in simple and effective fashion as an initial and vital foundation for the higher aspiration. The foundational necessities are seen as (1) ordinary health, (2) economic freedom and (3) emotional aplomb. Obviously they are the three main elements of human fulfillment in its lowest terms, and to them is added understanding as the privilege of a self-satisfaction on a somewhat higher level. These four consummations are the rewards the aspirant has the right to expect from the beginning as a result of his aspiration. They are the answers to the world, and its questions of the why of spiritual seeking, when perspectives are limited to a time-and-space context.
The true aspirant, however, must know that he is entering a fellowship with those like-minded in reaching out to broader spiritual ends in which the destiny of a race and a globe may be said to rest. He must realize that he is expected to do his part in sustaining the rhythms of a transcendental group consciousness in all its interweaving manifestations. Here is something he may not come to understand in full until after considerable development of his insights, and indeed as a consequence of endless and often puzzling experience with the unrealized intricacies of both human nature and the cosmic constitution. Nonetheless he may gain a valuable and simple orientation at the start, and realize its validity through the subtle if not exactly comprehensible self-strengthening he can identify within himself at core. The heart of the Solar Mysteries since time immemorial has been an uncompromising loyalty to its ritual, and there is direct parallel here to the implication of the prophet Ezekiel that faithlessness in the rehearsal of spiritual experience and of all self-committal is far more destructive to the ultimate welfare of the race than the crimes of everyday life for which society has sharp though transient punishment. In the outer cradling of its procedures in a normal experience of a present-day generation the Sabian Assembly therefore sets up its first measure of an aspirant's performance in the regularity of (1) his sharing of his means on the physical or foundational level and (2) his participation in Sabian thought by his regular attendance at group discussion, in person or by electronic means, or his equally regular reports by email or mail on his adventures with the lesson materials.
Resignation from the Assembly is the right of the student at any time, since his original affiliation must be an ever-continuing affirmative to be effective. The surrender of anything he has gained is its delivery back to the eternal pool of human potentiality, and therefore no loss in any possible sense, and his holding to what has seemed profitable in the refinement of his experience as an individual should be both a compensation in full and a precise measure of what he has shared of himself. His actual contribution to the group continues in the reality of the whole into which it has been built, and this is his spiritual reward whether he is aware of it or not. There are always those who come into the fellowship briefly, and since they leave on this equitable basis the chapter should end on the same note of good will with which it began. However, resignation by mere cessation of the self-contribution at full flood is the unforgivable sin of biblical imagery, and it may be fraught with extraordinary danger to the seeker's immortal on-going.
Sometimes there will be those who through the discipline develop tangible skills and acquire knowledge that they are able to employ better in channels other than Sabian for the ultimate fulfillment of their own lives, as well as for the discharge of their occult obligations. Their endowment may prove of much greater value in projects of a different esoteric slanting, or of more conventional philosophical, psychological or religious sort. Their completion of the initiatory self-development in the ideal ten years, or in whatever longer period may be required, need never constitute a commitment to continue as participant in the particular vision that has served them. At the core of the Sabian project, however, are the aspirants who through their training within the fellowship have come to deliver the whole of themselves and their potentials to its ends in view. Those in the work more transiently are quite as welcome, but the ultimate custodians of the greater dream are collectively what the Assembly can be said to be in its over-all terms. This inner company embraces the seeker of immortal dedication no less after than before his decease.
By the token of all this a member once resigning may come back to participation in the Assembly, and without prejudice. His turn to other orientations is merely a detail of his experience on the path, and he will not be penalized if he repeats the procedure or even does so many times over. Similarly there are those who like to traverse many ways to the Eternal Wisdom all at once, like the rider of two horses or driver of three or four in the ancient circus. To spread himself so thin is rather pointless for the average seeker, if not indeed a contribution to the total defeat of his objectives, but a true respect for personality requires that no objection be raised to the multiple affiliations. However, Sabian requirements must be met as conscientiously as in every other case.
The Sabian aspirant, after two years given to a faithful performance of the neophyte obligations, may enter the acolyte discipline by signing the proper pledge form. The substance of effort in this grade is the study of special lessons for the five acolyte years, and the performance of special fortnightly drills of a psychological nature as these are given in each of the special outlines. On arrival at Lesson XXI in each of the five series there are two letters to write as a condition of receiving the next series in order, and of entering the legate work when acolyte-grade requirements have been met for the final time.
What is known as work in consciousness, consisting in this case of meditation for at least five minutes daily on matters in the interest of which the service is volunteered, is a required detail of acolyte discipline. Neophytes meanwhile and at their option may participate in this labor of the spirit as practice in preparation for acolyte enlistment. For any dependable sustainment of the meditative ritual the seeker must cradle his effort in the everyday reality of which he is most fundamentally and genuinely a part. This demands his understanding co-operation with the prevailing mores as the sole basis on which a Solar Mysteries may operate. Hence there is a stress on a strict personal normality throughout the Sabian instruction. However, when a recasting or liberalization of current standards becomes the expression of his spiritual goal he must live the life of active protest, as all reformers have had to do of necessity in every age of man. But in general he enhances his subjective contribution to the eternal vision as he comports himself naturally and decently in the eyes of his fellows, since in that fashion he best lifts their upward reach into a measure of assimilation to his own. Each aspirant of course must make his own decisions as to what his rules of conduct will involve. These may be in connection with the use of stimulants such as alcohol or tobacco, or tea and coffee, or even spices and condiments generally. Involved may be a resort to the time-tried methods of self-discipline such as fasting, breathing exercises, the refusal of food when life must be taken to provide it, sexual continence and a host of other practices that more frequently than not will have their normal setting in cultures other than his own. In every procedure of this nature the end in view of course is to endow experience with an increasing symbolization of eternal values.
Acolytes are asked to volunteer for three years of specific individual service to the Sabian Assembly, in addition to their general obligation, and this may be of tangible or intangible order as is acceptable in the given case to each of them and his particular esoteric sponsor. In the course of the five years he selects a mystery name, and after its approval he may use it in all inner phases of group procedure. Its principal function is to remind him that in ultimate fact he is ever the conscious creator of his own true identity, and thus the actual arbiter of his destiny. Also and in due time he plants a fixed physical object as the symbolical nucleus of a laya center both for an invisible or immortal task and for his own initiate personality which in a sense will develop out of it. Thus he is provided in token fashion with a continual reminder that in his highest potentiality he is always linked necessarily, through wholly practical and common roots, with his fellows of even the least spiritual unfoldment.
The ritualistic core of acolyte discipline is attendance in person or by proxy at sixty-three consecutive Full Moon meetings. There is no objection to the aspirant sending his proxy to the Celebrant of a Full Moon meeting as a safeguard for the continuity and then also attending a ceremony in person. Similarly he may have proxies at more than one meeting. However, he is not permitted to make provision for more than one lunar month in advance, except in the case of protracted travel when communications may be unreliable. All performance of obligation by the neophyte is on honor and without check excepting only the regularity with which he shares his means, but the Full Moon attendance is made a matter of permanent record by the Esoteric Secretary or person appointed by the Esoteric Secretary to assist in administering the inner discipline.
Study groups for the acolytes are encouraged when there are students of this grade who can meet together in person, and it is permitted in any such gathering to change the order of the five sets of acolyte lessons for anyone or more of those attending in order to increase the number of those coming together each two weeks. However, the requirements of Lesson XXI for the acolyte must always be as put down for the year of discipline to which he actually belongs, and by the same token he should perform the fortnightly drills proper to his stage of progress. Candidates for acolyte work may sign their pledges as much as six months in advance if their participation in the special class work is facilitated as a result, but the required attendance at a Full Moon ceremony sixty-three consecutive times in special ritualistic self-realization cannot begin until the time of actual acolyte eligibility. If there is a break in meeting this requirement, so that it is not completed at the time of legate eligibility otherwise, that discipline may be undertaken and this detail of acolyte obligation met concurrently. If necessary or desirable an acolyte may take an additional year or more for any of the five sections of the work without penalty other than loss of time.
Acolyte study groups may be started on the first Monday following either April 17 or October 17 and the ritual for the quarterly meetings is adjusted to April and October as times of particular and symbolical efficacy for the cycles of acolyte discipline. It is not necessary that acolyte classes be led or taught by someone further advanced in occult training, but no member of the Sabian Assembly may serve an acolyte group as teacher or leader or facilitator if he himself has not signed an acolyte pledge.
After his five acolyte years the student may enter the legate grade for the three or more years he may need for his continuing spiritual refinement. He takes the step by signing the legate pledge, after the completion of all necessary acolyte requirements excepting perhaps the attendance at Full Moon meetings. As the ritualistic token of this new dimension of effort he undertakes to spend an hour in special inner communion immediately before each of twelve consecutive quarterly meetings, and either to attend them or to have an excuse from the Esoteric Secretary or Esoteric Council in advance. The Legate Forum which includes the Quarterly Message becomes that special sharing of the transcendent awareness in its development that assists each of us as we participate. For him an Easter eve gathering takes the place of the public quarterly meeting on Palm Sunday. The restricted esoteric occasion on the Saturday evening becomes the annual focus for a course of development that by long tradition and of necessity remains oral in nature. With the mouth-to-ear communication the aspirant encounters the symbolical or ritualistic secrecy that is perhaps best known to the world at large through the procedures of Freemasonry. There is nothing in the work of a Masonic Lodge that is not to be found printed openly in books, although the master mason faithful to his pledges will never certify to the correctness or incorrectness of any details made public. His lips are sealed for the integrity of himself and his companions in the creation of an invisible fellowship that in potentiality at least is as encompassing as the occult Mysteries.
Sabian aspirants of legate grade are aggregated in quadrangles. Each quadrangle consists of four seekers who work together in consciousness for something of common concern, in the same manner they have been carrying meditative responsibility singly as acolytes. It is the privilege of acolytes to form in these groups of four as a practice in advance of legate procedures, and in such a case they may seek to further the larger-dimension goals they can envision through their common effort. A quadrangle remains in existence as long as all four participants continue in their desire to work together. At a regular time of assignment to the quadrangles, preferably annually, all qualified members of the Assembly are given an opportunity to enlist by means of written and confidential forms sent directly to the Esoteric Secretary. Any given quadrangle is dissolved unless the legates or acolytes comprising it elect to continue their work together. All new quadrangle assignments are worked out by interview or correspondence with the Esoteric Secretary. The successful formation of quadrangles, and the approvals of special work in consciousness for which aspirants volunteer singly, are reported to those concerned in writing or by special form letters issued to the students undertaking this service. Legates who wish may invite acolytes to provisional place in their quadrangles. Surviving legates of quadrangles including fellow-workers of legate grade who have deceased may continue the invisible fellowship without exterior alteration by electing to do so at each annual enlistment.
Under the Sabian presentation of the Solar Mysteries the achievement of higher grades of initiation such as lay brother is never admitted except orally and in the company of those of equal or greater experience in the ritualistic self-refinement, and the classification of legate is used to embrace everything above acolyte. This practice is in conformity with the realization that anything after all is what it does, and that the doing in the instance of exalted spiritual responsibilities is really more apparent in fruits that can be recognized by all men and so realized in their scope by the widespread evidence of their value. Distinctions among personalities on a transcendental level are altogether meaningless because an individual when he becomes more and more All-Self in particular respects has little of mere selfhood about which any intelligent statement can be made. The advance on the Solar path is not into mystery and confusion. Rather it is into a greater clarification marked ultimately by an understanding that is universal because all men may possess it, and that is eternal because no time can be more pregnant than the present. Initiation in actuality is never more than the expansion of consciousness that the smallest child can know in simple fashion, but that the wisest adult may lose in the higher potential simply because of his unnatural fear of self-transcending experience. Therefore it is said in the Bible that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the children.
Secrecy under the Sabian presentation of the Solar Mysteries in consequence is ever a drill in the subjective expansion of an all-awareness rather than any hiding of things. Since what is to be expanded should be worth the effort by every possible standard, the individual is expected to come before the eternal portal with clean hands as in spiritual parallel to the requirement of appeal to a court in equity under United States law. The respect for personality on which the Assembly is built is expressed most frequently in the demand that each seeker mind his own business in a very literal sense. And by the same token he knows that his fellows are not to take over his unfoldment nor are to seek to help him except as he invites them to do so. The Assembly does not concern itself over the private lives of its members, and asks no questions as to other interests. The participant in the invisible fellowship is merely expected to do the proper thing, whether for himself or the work, and to do this without being told. He is taken as adult, since otherwise he is not ready for genuine initiation. If there are things he needs to know about the work, he should be mature enough to make the necessary inquiry or to gain the information he wishes by observation and a perusal of the materials. And if he does not contribute to the morale of the work by respecting the intelligence of its procedures and endeavoring to understand them through a resort to common sense if nothing else, he is destroying his own spiritual potential by the betrayal of the leading that brought him to the Sabian portal of the Eternal Wisdom.
If freedom and respect demanded for his own personality are twisted around by an aspirant, to become a threat to the freedom of his fellows and a lack of respect for their personalities, the organic integrity of the Assembly is at stake and therefore it has every right to take whatever action may be needed to protect itself. Thus conduct that offers any least outrage to the immediate community or to the prevailing culture can never be tolerated. The use of common activities for purposes of political propaganda or subversive behavior in any possible implication of the term is contrary to all Sabian purposes. Personal solicitation as a part of business or financial promotion in any form in association with Sabian activities is a perversion of their function. As the Assembly teaches in general so must it practice in particular. It must not only be sure that it minds its own business but that its members do likewise while taking part in its procedures.
In addition to the regular Sabian pledged students of the neophyte, acolyte and legate grades there are also nonpledged participants or individuals who desire to share in the studies and general activities but who do not care to undertake the spiritual or subjective side of the discipline. These members of the student body are entitled to receive all neophyte materials and to have all neophyte privileges, provided they meet Sabian standards of conduct and make a monthly contribution that covers at least the estimated cost of carrying a regular student on the roll.
At any time after two years in the work a pledged student of any grade may transfer to the alumni group and make his contribution on the basis of the lesser costs incurred in his case. He will receive no further lessons but will continue to get all other materials of regular issue. He will have the privileges of his grade and may take his part in all inner or spiritual activities, as in keeping his place on a legate or acolyte quadrangle. He may transfer back to active status without prejudice whenever he wishes to do so.
Students in the astrological discipline receive an extra weekly lesson on the stellar science, and they are asked to share of their means on the basis of the higher cost of carrying them on the roll. They are not distinguished from the nonastrological members of the Assembly in any other respect.
Junior aspirants are boys and girls who sign a special pledge with the approval of parents or guardians, at any time before their fifteenth birthday, and who undertake to perform some specific and tangible service in some phase of the Sabian project as a token of their interest. If faithful in the performance of this for at least two years they may, on their fifteenth birthday or thereafter, become regular members of the Assembly by signing the neophyte pledge. If they wish they also may enter the acolyte work by signing the acolyte pledge simultaneously. In general the junior obligation needs the stimulus of direct association with adult activities, as in connection with a study group or some objective Sabian enterprise.
Students afield are members in all categories of the Assembly who are unable to carryon their Sabian activities in company with others, or who do not care to do so. At the beginning they may have much greater difficulty in getting into the rhythm of the work, but in the long run they may develop a much greater creative strength within themselves. They lose the chance to participate in the rehearsal of spiritual experience through the discussion group, together with the greater immediateness of insight that follows when the two or three are gathered in the ineffable name for their devotions and a release of the self's potentials. Ultimately they gain their place in the invisible fellowship more directly in touch with the great souls who never can be reached as intimately through the ramification of focus when a number have met together, and in consequence there may be a more immediate flowering of the eternal self-reliance on which a conscious immortality depends. With less opportunity for quick validations the students afield have more wonderful exercise of an untrammeled potentiality. Such aspirants participate in Sabian functioning no less and no more than those aspirants who walk perhaps more conveniently with their fellow seekers, but their initiative has to serve them more assiduously and in that fact there is spiritual power. Thus the disadvantages and advantages remain oddly in balance, and this has been true since the earliest years of the project.
The marriage partner of a student shares that student's status in every respect. When man and wife are both aspirants they are treated as a single individual in respect to the issue of materials and financial contributions, unless they prefer to have duplicate sets of lessons and to make separate offerings to the work.
Regular students in financial difficulties, provided they have been members in good standing of the Assembly for six months or more, may make full discharge of their obligation by token contributions monthly in the form of a stamp or small coin during their period of limitation. They are required, however, to participate in the healing ritual regularly and to ask spiritual aid in the amelioration of their situation as long as it continues.