Initiation (Video Script)
As a social practice, initiation is a rite of passage signifying a transition within a group. For example, in tribal cultures initiation is the process by which a child becomes an adult and full member of the tribe. Such initiations are often painful and dangerous so that the fear of pain and death can be faced and overcome.
Some ancient initiation practices focused on the mysteries of life and involved secret societies or cults. In that context, initiation involved gaining special knowledge or skills associated with the group. Typically, the initiate would undergo purification by fasting and through ritual cleaning with water. Purification is a common theme in traditional initiation practices.
The initiation process may symbolize a simultaneous death and rebirth. As the initiate, ascends from one level to the next, there is a new beginning as old patterns of existence drop away. Thus Christian baptism can be viewed as a simple initiation practice.
Modern forms of initiation still serve many of the same functions whereby individuals become part of a group or are elevated in status. Whether the secretive initiation ceremonies of the Masonic order or the more aggressive rituals of the military or street gangs, the process is essentially the same. The person is humbled, the ego is overwhelmed, and the individual becomes assimilated into the group. The part becomes one with the whole.
With regard to the search for God, spiritual initiation is a sequential experience by which an individual comes to know itself to be itself, and yet one with the whole, one with God. Spiritual initiation is voluntary. No one can force a person to be more spiritual. It has to come from within, otherwise it only builds resentment.
We have encountered the sweet and bitter of spiritual initiation in a previous lesson on Opportunity in the form of a little book that is sweet in the mouth but bitter in the belly. The sweetness draws us into the initiation process so that the soul can be purged and purified, which can be perceived as a very bitter experience.
The purification associated with spiritual initiation can take many forms. There is inner purification of selfish soul patterns in relationships with others. Dysfunctional mental attitudes are abandoned. Even the physical body undergoes purification. These changes can be painful if you cling to the old patterns. Inner attunement through prayer and meditation is essential for letting go and releasing. It may feel like a part of the self has died.
You may also feel as if you have been reborn, or at least transformed in some significant way. Your step will lighter, the way will be brighter. You will look forward to each day as an opportunity to serve.
As has been noted in a previous lesson, dealing with serious illness can be an initiation if approached from the perspective of transformation and soul development. Whatever the context, spiritual initiation signifies a fundamental process of change. Change is hard for everyone, especially when the change involves innermost patterns of mind and spirit.
The Search for God will provide abundant opportunities for purification and spiritual initiation. It is up to each individual to accept the initiation as part of soul development and not project negativity purged from within, outward onto others.
The Shadow Of Initiation
Sometimes spiritual initiation has a dark side. There may be resistance to purification of negative patterns. Instead of recognizing that the problem is within self, the negativity is projected outward onto others. Thus we concentrate our attention on the faults and shortcomings of others so that we don’t have to deal with our own issues.
In psychological terms, this is called the shadow and is particularly prominent when seeking to live up to a high ideal. Perhaps you have noticed: The higher the ideal, the longer the shadow that is cast.
The concept of initiation exposing negative attitudes, emotions, and behaviors will be familiar to anyone who has been active in a church or other spiritual organization. The long shadow cast by a high spiritual ideal, often leads to unseemly behaviors as drosses are brought to the surface for purification. By recognizing the shadow of initiation for what it is and acknowledging that the fault is within one’s own self, the obstruction is removed, purification is achieved, and the initiation is accomplished as the soul moves closer to its Source. It is a sequential process, with series of initiations befitting the lessons to be learned by each soul.