Man is naturally bipolar: the rational and emotional elements form the horizontal pole, while the intellect as both manifested and non-manifested form the vertical pole. The horizontal being acts as a support for the spirit or intellect (buddhi) which is why in all spiritual paths we find the necessary preliminary tasks of building up and strengthening the moral and devotional aspects as well as the logical and doctrinal learning of the initiate. But even this does not guarantee that the spirit will be realized. Because of this difficulty we have two prominent paths, the wet and the dry, pertaining to a sentimental realization and an intellectual one. The wet path, since it relies on sentiment as a support, can neglect much of the doctrine and intellectual aspects, but for this reason it is greatly limited to a much lesser degree of attainment than that found in the dry path which relies mostly on the reason as a support. In either case one must remember that the intellect has nothing whatsoever to do with the imagination or the subconscious, and still less to do with the “collective unconscious” of psychology. The intellect is supra-human, whereas the imagination is infra-human and the unconscious is subhuman.

Now the intellect, which is dormant in common man, is of a twofold nature. Being at the heart or center of being one possesses the created intellect which begins the vertical plane to the non-manifested intellect. The intellect thus acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth and is in this way synonymous with the spirit. Once the consciousness enters the heart of the being, which is the start of the intellect, one may attain a direct intuitive knowledge which traditionally is called the remembrance of God (this is often misinterpreted as reincarnation or "remembering past lives"). The spirit which is non-human possesses the memory of all things that ever were or ever will be, but also possesses knowledge of that which is formless or beyond all forms, the Infinite and Absolute.

To say the Absolute is to say the Absolutely Real which is immutable and beyond all contingencies. Conversely, to say there is no Absolute is to say that nothing is real, which is folly. But just as there is an Absolute there is also what may be called a relative Absolute which is its reflection, seated at the summit of Being.

On the periphery of the manifested universe are the accidents which give rise to evil and illusion. It is because of this that man has fallen from the pure intellect and now resides between the corporeal and the dream worlds in which he is ignorant of the Self. It then remains to discuss how man might regain the spiritual center and be united with the Divine, which is the purpose of all traditions.

In the exoteric domain such as is common to Semitic monotheisms, theology limits its perspective to the moral faculties of man leaving all trials beyond the moral to the afterlife. But exoterism presupposes an esoteric core with which and only with it is made lawful. The esoteric, which contains no limitations, is essentially initiatic, of which the exoteric acts as a form or support. Whereas in exoteric rites one is virtually initiated through mediation, the esoteric rites consist of effective initiation by direct transmission. In the former the priest acts in the name of God inviting the Divine Presence to enter the participants. In the latter the spiritual master transmits the spiritual influence which he already possesses to the initiate just as one lights a flame from another.

Because of the complexity of the subject I cannot get too far into it here. But for further reading on this and related subjects I highly recommend The Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrine by Rene Guenon. Also of interest:

Conditions for Initiation

Initiation and the Crafts



Rites and Symbols

The Heart and the Cave

The Concept of Initiation