1. Is the experience of the "baptism" adequately described by "the peace that passeth understanding" or is the "peace" normally associated with some other "contact"?
The Baptism of Fire and the Peace that passes all understanding are two different things. You can have the peace without the fire, but you will not have the fire without the peace. A deep peace is always a part of the higher spiritual experiences except in the case of warnings that come through the soul. But when the warning is appropriately dealt with then the peace will return.
Will the "levels" of soul contact normally proceed in an "upward" manner from "still small voice" to "baptism"?
If you are talking about steps in the seeker's progression, yes. First the still small voice will come. When it is followed a peace will come. If the disciple continues successfully he will move on to higher spiritual experiences and will arrive at the baptism of fire. Then he will know without doubt that his contacts were real and not part of his imagination.
Do all levels of soul contact necessarily involve "knowing" or is gnosis first experienced at the "baptism of fire"?
The baptism of fire has little to do with knowing or gaining knowledge, but it does accomplish several important things.
Without proper adjustment the disciple could not handle these.
Direct knowing can take place without the fire by being sensitive to the inner voice. The seeker must pay attention to this voice before and after their fire experience.
How is the first experience of the "baptism" likely related to "the point of tension that breaks through to the Oneness Principle and the group mind with whom you are associated"?
It is not directly related. You rarely feel the fire when tuning into the Oneness Principle as that is not its purpose. However the fire does elevate consciousness so the disciple does become more sensitive in all areas. A point of tension is necessary to obtain the baptism of fire as well as contact the group mind, but faith, pure motive, focus, calmness and spiritual confidence are the important qualities to access the Oneness Principle.
Would the next step on the "soul contact" spectrum involve learning how to consciously invoke/maintain the "fire"/oneness over time?
Eventually, the disciple learns to access at least portions of the Oneness Principle at will. Our access is limited by our ring-pass-not.
One would have to be a Master or higher to have the fire all the time. When the disciple has the experience it usually lasts no longer than three days and is followed by a great temptation to retrogress back into the dark. With the assistance of a Master the disciple can experience the fire for a longer period of time. This is usually to establish a stronger link in preparation for service.
An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969)
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