Hi folks, I’ve just changed the time for the get together on Thursday. We will exploring the nature of initiation this week. Initiation means beginning but by implication also endings. Most people I guess focus on the achievements involved in being initiated into a Magic(k) group. Being a mirror of tribal initiation that take you into adulthood from childhood. This is a layered experience because you enter formally into training in order to gain the skills and experiences needed to participate in power, transformation, trust and intimacy. An example is marriage. It is a type of Tantric initiation, there are a few others but this one is the most common experience many will share. It transforms the personal experience love, intimacy and lust into a public declaration of commitment to those feelings calling on the rituals of the culture to acknowledge the love shared and the power it can offer the participants.
One of the mistake made in the modern era about marriage reflects the way those into magic and spirituality often think/feel that initiation is an ending rather than a beginning. People believe they can relax into marriage because the commitment to each other is enough. They feel the journey is done now and they are no longer two single people travelling side by side with ‘we’ an incidental grammatical form. It becomes a formal statement of a new identity in which your participation is based on an attempt at a life time commitment to a new reality, one shared.
This lifetime commitment wasn’t a rare and unusual experience in the past. When you committed to any group or activity in the past it was for a life time. Now-a-days we are lucky to commit to anything for a week, if you stay in a job for longer than three years without moving on you are considered lacking in ambition and drive, un-capitalist. The truth is that all activities, feelings are going to effect your life, some more noticeably than others. The obvious experience many of us will have is that one moment of pleasure, the moment being different lengths, can result in a child that will change your life. Other moments get lost in patterns of living and behaviour where the individual event goes unnoticed but the pattern is a statement of who you feel yourself to be.
Other initiations are the finishing of high school, entering an apprenticeship, finishing university, taking a new job, even a divorce can be one. These are more less formal, marked by rituals. Others are less formal adolescence was a marker in the past of the which was celebrated through ritual as the transition into adulthood. These days it is not really formally mark by ritual, though there are remnants like the process of high school which focusses on intellect and some practical skills but doesn’t address the emotional, psychological or spiritual social transition in an integrated way. There is no single event that says I’m a grown up to yourself and the whole of our society.
In our society spiritual initiation these days is rarely formal. Those that do offer initiation like the Reiki levels, Scientology, various pagan traditions and some Tantric traditions are sometimes looked at as dangerous cults depending on their transparency and simplicity. Transparency is important because in the modern era we don’t trust secrecy. Simplicity because we also think of democratised (made up word???) knowledge as important and so worry if the rituals and knowledge offered seem complex and difficult, testing. It seems legitimate knowledge if it is simple enough that anyone can grasp it, it caters to the lowest common denominator. So that the line between Initiate, that is someone who has joined the group formally is only mark by participation in the ritual, rather than the line between member and non-member being more deeply drawn by shared skills, knowledge and personal qualities and values.
An everyday example of the difference between how things were and now is the way the RSL has changed over the years. After the two world wars to be a member of the RSL you had to be a war veteran, a very serious shared experience. Now anyone can walk in sign their name and hand of a small token of value, $5 or something and you are in. When you do the first levels of Reiki you do a workshop and you’ve got it. There isn’t really a test of your skills and knowledge. There is a concept of transmission which is conceived as an effortless way of achieving spiritual knowledge but in the past transmission of spiritual knowledge was based on living with and training with a master who tested your qualities as a person to see if you were worthy of inheriting and further transmitting his experience onto others. This was different than simply passing on knowledge and skills, even if they are skills with energy, prana, chi or ki (depending on the tradition) it was much deeper.