The “Path” represents an important theosophical teaching. The term is used in different senses to denote not just the Path itself but also the Probationary Path along which a man must journey before he can enter the former.
Impelled by the profound longing for the highest, for service of God and his fellows, man first starts this journey by devoting himself wholeheartedly to this service. When entering upon the Probationary Path, he become the chela or disciple of one of the Masters or Perfected men who have all finished the great journey, and he devotes himself to the acquiring of four qualifications:
(1) knowledge of only what is real;
(2) rejection of what is unreal;
(3) the six mental attributes of control over thought, control over outward action, tolerance, endurance, faith, and balance, these attributes though all necessary in some degree, not being necessary in perfect degree; and
(4) the desire to be one with God.
During this period of his efforts to acquire the qualifications, the chela advances in many ways, for his Master imparts to him wise counsel; he is taught by meditation to attain divine heights unthought of by ordinary men; he constantly works for the betterment of his fellows; usually in the hours of sleep, and striving thus and in similar directions, he fits himself for the first initiation at the entrance to the Path proper, but it may be mentioned that he has the opportunity either during his probation or afterwards to forego the heavenly life that is his due and so to allow the world to benefit by the powers that he has gained, and which in ordinary course, he would utilize in the heavenly life.
In this case, he remains in the astral world, from whence he makes frequent returns to the physical world. Of initiations there are four, each at the beginning of a new stage on the Path, manifesting the knowledge of that stage.
On the first stage there are three obstacles or, as they are commonly termed, fetters, which must be realized only to be an illusion; doubt which must be cleared away by knowledge; and superstition which must be cleared away by the discovery of what in truth is real.
This stage traversed, the second initiation follows, and after this comes the consciousness that earthly life will be short, that only once again will physical death be experienced, and the man begins more and more to function in his mental body. After the third initiation, the man has two other fetters to unloose-desire and aversion; and now his knowledge becomes keen and piercing and he can gaze deep into the heart of things.
After the fourth initiation, he enters on the last stage and finally frees himself of what fetters that remain–the desire for life whether bodily or not, and the sense of individual difference from his fellows. He has now reached the end of his journey, and is no longer troubled by sin or anything that can hinder him from entering the state of supreme bliss where he is reunited with the divine consciousness. A.G.H.
Source: 81, 321.