First of all it must be clarified that where there is no contact with the soul, service will never be the case. Without any soul involvement there will only be activity, but no service.2 Now since there are different gradations of soul contact, since the gaining control of the soul over the personality is an evolution with different stages,3 service as a spontaneous effect of soul contact knows different gradations and stages too.4
Now to start with an overview of the evolution of service first the stage must be mentioned that isn't service at all. Where there is no impetus from the soul service will not be the case. And since love is the specific quality of the soul it can also be said that without love service is not the case.5 An activity, such as a charitable activity, may look like service while in reality a loveless show of oneself predominates. Such pseudo-service is generally rendered by average humans. They do not have a changing influence on their environing humans because they merge with them in mass consciousness.6
The first stage of real service here to mention is the service to one's own self.7 This is an attitude of service which can be seen with the beginners in spirituality, with those who have just treaded the spiritual path. Their activity with regards to spirituality is only directed towards their own enlightenment, and towards nothing else. We may call it service because there is some attraction by the soul, but it is still a very immature sense of service because it is still very much colored by selfishness. It can be roughly indicated that this type of service is rendered by spiritual minded humans. Their type of service is able to change themselves.
The second stage of service regards the service to the master.8 This is a devotional type of service. We find this service much rendered in the Hindu concept of karma-yoga or the yoga of action9 where seva (service)10 is rendered to one's guru (master)11 or ishta-devata (preferred god)12. All activity in this type of service is offered to the aforementioned. It is step higher because the eyes are lifted away from oneself towards the master but there still is a glamoured idea about the master and oneself. This type of service is generally rendered by aspirants.13Aspirants will generally be able to influence their direct surroundings through their service.
The third stage of service is the service to humanity.14 The server is leaving his romantic view of his master and himself behind and is now focused on the helping of his fellow man. This stage of service is the effect of the growth of group awareness through an increased contact with the soul. This type of service Jesus Christ exemplified in his life and many are trying to follow in his footsteps.15 This type service we find much rendered by disciples. Disciples have through their type of service in general the capacity to influence the groups with which they are affiliated.16
The fourth stage of service is service to the plan.17 With the plan being the production of a subjective synthesis of humanity it is in this stage not so much the outer humanity that is being served but rather the divinity in humanity.18 In a sense it is a return to the service of the master, but now stripped from selfish and romantic conceptions of service and enriched with the conception of the unity of alterity. It is this stage in which the server has matured into full soul control. It is thus the type of service that is rendered by initiates. The service of initiates is capable of influencing masses.19
We thus get an overview as in figure 1.
|Type of service||Type of human||Reach of influence|
|No service||Average humans||None|
|Service to oneself||Spiritual minded humans||Themselves|
|Service to the master||Aspirants||Surrounding environment|
|Service to humanity||Disciples||Affiliated groups|
|Service to the plan||Initiates||Masses|
The above figure must not be taken too strict because every human is a unique case. It should also be kept in mind that the mentioned influence regards first of all an inner influence and not necessary an outer influence. We may thus find average humans in outwardly influential positions and initiates in positions that are apparently not influential at all. However when this is taken in consideration the figure can be helpful as an overview. May we thus along this figure evolve towards the rending of true service to the plan.