It is true that various mystical schools use the technique of Initiation or Ceremonies of Introduction in their method of instructing their members. It is also true that real esoteric schools recognize that Initiation is not only a process by which the stages of progress are marked by ceremonies, but that life itself is a continuous process of Initiation.
There are many aspects of the specific topic of Initiation that remain shrouded in mystery due to a lack of understanding or because in earlier times questions about this would not be answered. As in the past, now also some continue to regard the topic as one that should be kept hidden, that it belongs to the realm of things not to be revealed. Those who know me know that I do not like to shroud things in mystery unnecessarily, or hide in an excessively veiled way those things that should be known and understood by those who aspire to the knowledge of Greater Light. This is not meant to imply that I do not like romanticism, or that I don't appreciate the aura of mystery that surrounds initiation ceremonies. Just the opposite is true: I know that to appreciate the aspect of mystery that surrounds Initiations and be impressed by the ritual drama, as well as assuring the orderly progress of the Initiation and gaining the greatest benefit possible, it is best to know the real nature of initiation. It is beneficial to know why this is such an effective technique in personal development for those who would seek the unfathomable depths of Being.
Over many years of exploration in the field of esotericism and the acquisition of a good deal of experience with various philosophies and techniques, certain ideas, religious cults and so on, I have come to know many people from various Orders and Mystery Schools who have experienced many Initiations without becoming Initiated. Perhaps the lack of true inner development in spite of the many Degrees and Initiations received is due to an incomplete or incorrect idea of what initiations are and what their purpose is as well as the effect they have on the Initiates who aspire to knowledge by means of this path. Initiation is so consequential to human nature that I would dare to say that we are all, in less or greater measure, eternal supplicants to the unique awakening to reality that is realized by means of Permanent Initiation. I realize that such a bold statement as this may surprise many, or at least many who do not know what is meant by Initiation in the mystical sense or what its effect is on human kind. Nevertheless, for those who have a basic understanding of the human mind and the deep inner workings of the personality, as well as the variations of reality that exist among different forms of conscious life, in the vegetable kingdom as well as the animal, the tangible evidence of a continuous process of initiation is a valid reality.
It is, well, the desire to pass along certain additional details regarding Initiation and its technique that can be useful to those who follow this path, or a different method that includes Initiations as a part of its work in quest of knowledge, that compels me to make some reflections on the topic.
The reason for marking a new beginning, or event, is that a new situation is assimilated better when accompanied by a symbolic ceremony. This is simply a fundamental natural process manifest in the human mind.
Our habitual language does not easily express certain feelings and sensations connected to the deeper aspect of our personalities and its processes, which function as a higher plane of consciousness. Those facets of our personality, and those feelings, are expressed by means of a language of symbols, to which we have made reference in the previous chapter, utilizing a form of communication appropriate to the deeper levels of consciousness. Keep in mind that people are not only rational beings, but emotional as well. Because of this what is taught or shown to a person when approaching a new situation in life is better understood when presented not only to the rational, logical aspect of mind, but the emotional aspect as well. With an appropriate understanding of this we can reach a fundamental conclusion that Initiation is really an introduction of something new to the multiple aspects of the personality, even though it is typically referred to as if it pertained only to ones spiritual development and the new knowledge were only of an inner nature.
The impulse transmitted to us at a beginning, that is the Initiation, can be received in a natural way, the means being provided by the circumstance, or through the agency of others whom we define as the Initiators.
In this simple example we meet with two aspects of great importance: One is the individual to be initiated and the other is the Initiator who provides the subject matter for deep reflection and sets the tone for the Initiation. Beginning our consideration we find that once the candidate has undertaken the experience of initiation and had those experiences that transform him into and Initiate, he acquires a special designation. This is something intangible to the layman but that sets the Initiate apart from those who have not received this initiation and is recognizable to other Initiates. This quality creates a bond of fraternity, something beyond blood ties, that belongs to the fraternity of the spirit.
Said differently: someone who has become an Initiate, in any of the various types of initiations, becomes united with other Initiates and recognizes them as such. As a consequence, he has something in common with them that is recognizable to the other Initiates. In this respect, I will always remember the time when I was studying in high school as a boy. At that time in Spain there was a certain degree of official intolerance for different forms of philosophical and religious thinking. It was obligatory that, whether one were a believer or not, one must study a subject called Sacred history. The subject matter involved different courses covering the Old Testament, the Gospel, and the different dogmas and liturgy of the Catholic Church.
In a class of this type, which was called "Religious Subjects", the professor told us the story of how the Israelite Priests admitted Alexander the Great to the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem and how he was invited to make a sacrifice to YHVH. It was on that occasion that I asked the Professor of Religion how it was that Alexander the Great, being a Greek and therefore a pagan, was allowed admission to the Temple to make a sacrifice to the True God? I remember the professor answering me that Alexander the Great professed belief in the one God, the True God, and therefore could very well be admitted in an honorable way and allowed to make a sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem even though his religion was different. Having said that, the professor continued in a roguish tone that it was also possible that Alexander the Great had decided, for political reasons, to make a sacrifice to the God of the town that he had conquered and that the Israelite priests, to avoid reprisals and ally themselves with this new ruler, decided to admit the conqueror to the Holy of Holies of the Temple and have him participate in the sacrifice.
This experience remained in my thoughts without a rational explanation until sometime later when, reflecting on esoteric ideas about what it means to be an Initiate, I realized that in ancient times, just as in the present, one Initiate could be recognized by another regardless of the place or religious custom. Therefore he could be recognized and honorably admitted to the religious practices of any place that he might visit.
This aspect of unity among initiates, is a fundamental pillar of all of the Mystic Orders that I am familiar with. It is the same among some of my readers and this fact of unity among initiates regardless of locality or traditional affiliation is apparent in other examples. The great Greek conqueror Alexander, being an initiate in one of the ancient Mystery Schools could readily be admitted to any temple in another country because, regardless of material differences in politics, economic or military status etc., his standing in the fraternity of those who have been united in Light transcends these other things.
This fraternity of Initiates has no other affiliation than that of the spirit and holds an absolute respect for the different paths of knowledge, the different Schools, Initiatory Orders and such, as well as the Initiates themselves regardless of their circumstances. No true traditional School of inner knowledge would ever lower itself to attempting to declare its own superiority or impose its ideas, philosophy or practices on any person or other organization or otherwise express intolerance or implement requirements of servitude. In fact such actions are an implicit revelation of the lack of authenticity and good intentions of any supposed Initiate or School who behaves in this way.
The second aspect of this primary reflection is that of the Initiator. This is also very important since it is customarily understood that the Initiator is someone invested with a special authority that qualifies and authorizes him to confer Initiations on the Candidates. In fact, this point has frequently been discussed in a rather shallow and reactive manner by those who, perhaps with excessive zeal for their own particular path to development and the School or Order with which they are affiliated, give the idea of continuity of a historical succession of Initiators an importance that in my opinion is unwarranted. They would seem to be suggesting that a special power of initiation is passed on in this way and others do not have this power to initiate candidates.
Although a continuous transmission from the beginning of an organization's history is certainly an important traditional factor, it is also certain that if we go back to the origins of the Initiation we arrive at the first Initiator. Then one must wonder: who gave this authority to the first Initiator, who conferred this power in the Beginning? There can be only one sensible answer to this question: the assumption of a personal spiritual awakening, or an exalted moral development that makes the Initiator qualified to transmit this spiritual influence by means of Symbolic Initiation