Mouravieff distinguishes three thresholds in esoteric development. Esoteric development is seen as a descending octave, from Do to Do. The shocks between the first Do and the Si of the next octave, between the Fa and Mi of this octave and between the Do and Si of the third octave are the three thresholds.
Life places man in the wilderness, separated from esoteric work. Man may, by distinguishing between A and B influences, approach the beginning of the path of access to the Way. The exterior man is either man 1, 2 or 3, depending on which center is dominant in his constitution.
The first threshold marks the beginning of the path of access. In the above mentioned octave, this corresponds to the first Do. Crossing this threshold places the seeker on the first step of the 'staircase' that leads to the second threshold. Walking the staircase transforms man 1, 2 or 3 into man 4. The staircase is represented by the notes Si, La, Sol and Fa. The interval between Fa and Mi marks the second threshold.
After crossing the second threshold, man 4 becomes man 5, standing at the step marked by Mi. The subsequent notes Re and Do correspond to Man 6 and 7. The third threshold marks the completion of development possible in the human form and is between the Do of this octave and the Si of the next octave.
Mouravieff describes the stages as follows. We note that all these steps may take place while man lives and functions in the world. In the spirit of the 4th Way, none of the below steps per se requires monastic life.
Man lives immersed in A influences, sometimes encountering B influences. Following B influences, for example studying esoteric literature, seeking to educate and to know the self, man may develop a taste for B influences. If this taste is strong enough, we may speak of an embryo of a magnetic center. This may lead to encountering a man of influence C, under whose direction the seeker arrives at the first threshold. The way to this threshold may be long and may take different forms for different people. No amount of outward learning or life experience in itself constitutes a threshold. Thresholds are interior phenomena and involve commitments and internal changes which cannot be substituted for by outside appearance.
The first threshold marks a departure from the world of A influences. Crossing this does not change man so much but is still irreversible in the sense that the formerly satisfying pursuits of the exterior world will no longer be satisfactory. This in no way means that man were immune to temptation, on the contrary. This only means that pursuing these will not bring the satisfaction which it formerly might have brought.
The path of access begins after the first threshold. The principal task before the seeker is to separate the permanent elements of the film of life from the transient and to attain self-knowledge. This knowledge and analysis is tentative and uncertain but is nonetheless necessary. The second step of the path of access corresponds to developing the personality to its fullest. What specifically Mouravieff means by this is unclear. The third step corresponds to stabilizing this development and the fourth and final to bringing the three lower centers under the control of the magnetic center. This means that the automatically proceeding interactions of thought, emotion and body become rewired so as to be under the control of the magnetic center. This means that thinking, feeling and motor functions are separate and no longer infringe on each other, that one thinks with the mind and feels with the heart, so to speak, no longer confusing these.
Having accomplished this, the seeker has become man 4 and is facing the second threshold. The second threshold is the first time man attains objective knowledge of self. This entails an understanding of karma as well as access to formerly hidden contents of the subconscious. Man sees himself for the monster he is. The description is akin to the dweller on the threshold discussed by Steiner and others.
Man 4 is in many ways an exterior man. At the second threshold, lies to self, imaginary duties and worldly attachments must be set aside and karmic debts repaid. In terms of exterior life this is typically a crisis and point of rupture. What specific outer forms this takes will depend on the case. Morality becomes conscience and requires appropriate action. Outer forms must give way to inner sense of truth. Man 4 is in theory master of himself but in practice this mastery is not complete. The threshold marks the test of this mastery.
After the second threshold, the seeker has become man 5, a man of influence C and can reliably discern between A and B influences and has acquired a certain inner sense for truth. The magnetic center has merged with the higher emotional center, and the provisional I of the personality developed along the way leading to this step is linked to the real I. At this stage, man can survive physical death and reincarnate by conscious choice. Passing the second threshold is also called the second birth, as in John 3:3: '… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'
Again, progress is tied to being of service. Man may seem a master but further advance is obtained only through service, of whatever form may correspond to the esoteric demands of the time and to one's specific capabilities and gifts.
The next step involves gaining access to the higher intellectual center. The final step makes these changes permanent. At these stages, various 'supersensible' capabilities may manifest, according to situation and need. Still, such gifts of the spirit are not in themselves the goal of the Work.
A fall is possible at any point along the way. As knowledge and being increase, so does responsibility. Mouravieff does not discuss the subject in any great detail but we may infer that the most serious fall has to do with deliberate turning to service to self, as in attempting to use spiritual forces for personal gain.
The roadmap is of necessity very general and attempting to use it as a gauge of personal progress is full of pitfalls. Exterior emulation of changes does not make these changes internal and one may delude oneself in many ways, thus in effect only dreaming about waking up while in the soundest sleep. The presence of crisis alone does not make one spiritually advanced, although advance may be triggered by crisis as well as crisis by advance.
Know thyself remains a most useful maxim. Concrete work with others on an esoteric path is another necessary reality check.