As a teacher of esoteric studies, I have the honor of conducting Initiations once or twice every year. This is an obscure and greatly misunderstood concept for most people. Plus modernization has gradually killed off many traditional rites of passage.
Some everyday Initiations you may already be familiar with:
Christening. Baptism. Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Induction into any institution. Your first day of school. University Matriculation Day. Graduation Day. The rigorous training of the armed forces. The first day of a new job. Joining the local Golf or Rugby Club. The Freemasons. American Fraternity Houses. The Mile High Club.
In a new job, the Initiation may be simply learning the ropes, being taught procedures, where to put your coffee mug and what time the “in crowd” work till. You usually get a special “tome” full of arcane laws and guidelines that no one really ever reads. There may even be a joining fee.
History shows that medicine, physics, chemistry, reading, mathematics, writing, astronomy and anatomy were all at one time “occult” secret arts. In the modern world, you were probably initiated into most of those before you were 16 years old.
Definition from The Oxford Dictionary:
Initiation [v] – to begin and admit a person with introductory rites into secrets, mysteries or science. Latin root “initium” means “to begin”. So it’s a rite of passage ceremony, which signifies the transformation of an individual into a higher, more desired level of identity.
Initiate [n] – the person who has been initiated
Imagine you want to join an exclusive members-only social club. You can walk up to the building, but the people on the door will usher you away unless you’re a member. However, if you have a friend who is already a member, you will walk up the steps together and will be given a warm reception. Now you have access to higher powers [in this case the social, economic and prestige benefits of club membership] as well as the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual changes initiation brings about.
Now if you don’t have a friend who’s already a member, the alternative is to keep going over to the club, getting your face known, trying to schmooze the doorman and occasionally peeking through the window to see what’s going on inside. The way people do that is by reading books and trying things out haphazardly.
Unfortunately enlightenment doesn’t come from books – it is experience alone that brings realization.
Initiation gives you membership, companionship with like-minded individuals and access to deeper and broader levels of insight and power. In many systems, it is believed that many of your new contacts will be previous Initiates who are no longer with us. Initiation gives you nothing in tangible terms. Instead, it allows you to begin a particular system or practice.
Practical training involves:
• Training the physical body – a regimen of toughening, strengthening and purifying. This is usually achieved through exercises, breathing, and postures.
• Learning how to control your emotions. Feel the full range of positive and negative. Be able to accept and release the painful, and bask in the pleasant. Never be at the beck and call of involuntary emotion.
• Training the mind to focus on what you want and to eliminate the “noise”. Train up the laser-like focus. Develop discipline and single mindedness on your outcome. This is one purpose for ritual and ceremony. You’ll soon learn if you have the discipline to practice every single day. Learn how to and consistently practice meditation – stillness of the mind.
• Conscious knowledge of logic and philosophy giving you the full range of thinking on all logical levels, as recommended by Aristotle.
• Develop and utilize the imagination. What the mind can conceive it can achieve. All physical manifestation first requires the spark of creativity.
Science starts with reference experience data then searches for principles to explain it. Experiment leads to knowledge. “I’ll believe it when I see it”. Proof is required to prove something is real.
Esoteric study begins with the guiding principles, then watches for reference experiences to back them up. Knowledge leads to experiments. “I’ll see it when I believe it”. Faith is required to know something is real.
A spiritual initiation is therefore the process through which a student is given access to deeper layers of knowledge and practice [often called secrets] by their teacher or mentor.
In the worlds of mysticism and esoteric study, this is purported to cause a fundamental shift within the person being initiated. The initiator, bearing a certain power or state, transfers this to the person being initiated. Symbolically this is a simultaneous death and rebirth, because not only is it a beginning, its also an ending of sorts as the student ascends to a new level.
Very often you would be given a new name, a magical name. One of the many reasons for that was to reinforce the change in your identity.
Fully initiated means devotion to the mystic, occult wisdom and contact with natural forces. It also brings with it the Fraternity and comradeship with the group or “family” you are initiated into. Because you don’t start off born with mystic, magic or psychic abilities – you have to learn and practice them. The training and guidance is there if you’re willing to do the work. Unfortunately more people read about esoteric study than practice. The real measure of a spiritual initiate is how they demonstrate it in real life, not their intellectual knowledge. It’s what you do that counts.
This was repeatedly stressed by Dion Fortune who lived from 1891 – 1946 [real name Violet Firth] – a member of The Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn [a magic organization formed in the 1880’s], prolific author, psychologist, Christian and psychic.
She recommended an Initiate should be living a normal life and not be closed off in a secret order. Remember where Obi Wan Kenobi lived? You don’t want to become the eccentric weirdo in the woods!
You also don’t want to be a “fair weather” devotee. You know, the type who practices religiously on Sundays, but lets charity, forgiveness and moral fortitude slip a little from Monday to Saturday!
An initiate’s mindset should be centered around the approach that he or she has been initiated into. So no matter where you are, who you’re with or what you’re doing, you always have the method’s philosophy in the back of your mind.
There are three Initiators in your path – the first great initiation begins with your birth, the second is from your teacher, the third and most important are the lessons you learn through your life experience and learning’s from Higher Self.
The real question is the issue of authority – who is in charge, and what their intentions are. This is often abused and therein lie all the horror stories you might have thought this article was about.
And “as within so without”. Be wary of the Initiate who has no money, dysfunctional relationships and emotional baggage. The outer signs of the effects are usually the symptoms of the inner causes. If a person is lacking in the everyday world, they probably lack in the esoteric world too.
Finally, know that many believe it takes three lifetimes to become an initiate. So the sooner you start the better!