Initiatiation: An Inner Experience


Brothers and Sisters, how many of you have ever said or thought: “I have been initiated into The Order”? Or, “I had ‘such-and-such a Degree Initiation’ conferred upon me by so-and-so”? How many of you have not confided to a member-friend that you have received a psychic initiation? When we make these statements, exactly what do we mean? Are we meaning to say that we participated in an initiation ritual? Or do we mean that we have had a psychic experience, which we do not quite understand and, as a consequence, it must have been an initiation? In other words, Brothers and Sisters, do we really know what initiation means? What are the features of an initiation anyway?

The English word “initiation” is derived from the Latin word “initium”, which means: “an entering into”, or “beginning.” Etymologically, then, it could be said that “initiation” implies a beginning, or an entering upon a new course – the commencement of a new cycle of growth. On the other hand, according some, “initiation is a rite, a ceremony, or a method by which one is introduced to a particular knowledge. The ancient mystery initiations were intended to dramatically reveal an abstruse gnosis or wisdom to the candidate.” Taken together, then, initiation, from a traditional point of view, is a ritual designed to assist the student in entering upon a new cycle of growth. But is this all there is to initiation? Does this mean, then, that all we need to do is to participate in a Martinist Initiation Ritual to be truly initiated? And what of preparedness? Are we really ready for “initiation” merely by having the “desire” or by having familiarized ourselves with the principles and ideals of Martinism? What constitutes readiness for “initiation” anyway?

Traditionally the candidate for “initiation” is required to submit to certain tests. However, contrary to the beliefs of many, these tests have little or nothing to do with illness, social or domestic upheavals, or other phenomena of an entirely exoteric nature. Rather, the candidate must first show “a certain dissatisfaction with the prosaic order of life”. He or she must embark upon a quest, born of a desire to bring about a transformation in consciousness, this transformation resulting, ultimately, in a deeper understanding of life’s mysteries. In the ancient mystery schools tests were designed to determine the candidate’s readiness for “initiation”. Moral purity, a mental capacity to comprehend, good health, and certain virtues such as fortitude, temperance, judgement, zealousness, etc., together constituted “readiness”. In other words, the candidate for “initiation” had to undergo a test of character, since those of a more limited viewpoint, i.e., those of a more “negative” character, are more likely to abuse or profane the knowledge revealed during the process of initiation. Failure to meet any of these requirements signified a lack of readiness for initiation.

Having been found worthy, the candidate was then subjected to the initiatic process, which consisted of four parts, each designed to impress the consciousness of the candidate. The FIRST of these parts is SEPARATION – symbolic of a separation from the old order, the old way of life. During this phase of the ritual the candidate was either blindfolded or placed in a darkened chamber to represent the relative absence of “light”. In the darkness of ignorance there may even have been noises introduced intentionally into the chamber so as to represent the chaos of change from one level of consciousness and manner of living to another. The SECOND part of the process is ADMISSION – symbolic of rebirth. During this phase, the candidate should come to know that in consciousness he or she is reborn; that he or she must leave behind past concepts and erroneous ways in order to rise to a more lofty perception and appreciation of existence. The THIRD aspect is EXHIBITION – symbolic of revelation. During this phase of the initiatory process, the candidate will have revealed to consciousness certain sacred signs, symbols, precepts, truths, etc. In other words, the candidate’s consciousness becomes “illumined”, increasing in depth of understanding. The FOURTH and final aspect of the process is RE-ENTRY – symbolic of a return to the outer world in service to humanity, for “as one receives, so also must one give”. However, the candidate pledges to keep the experience secret even though the results of the experience must be applied to living in the outer world. These four aspects of initiation are incorporated into all authentic initiation rituals.

Impressive as these phases of an initiation ritual may seem, however, they are but external, outer acts designed to aid, psychologically, in inducing the proper conscious state by which the candidate is actually, inwardly initiated. They are conducive in assisting the candidate in initiating his or her own consciousness – they do not themselves do the initiating! Ultimately, it is the candidate, who must do the initiating for no one can truly “initiate” another – as is often said: “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”! Hence, the role of the officers in any initiation ritual is merely that of preceptors or guides – no more!

Assuming, then, that the candidate has indeed initiated his or her consciousness, what then? Following initiation, is it smooth sailing henceforth, or does the Neophyte continue to face the challenge of test and trial? What actually takes place, in consciousness, as a result of initiation? Which phase of consciousness is initiated – is it the mortal outer consciousness or is it the inner psychic consciousness?

A clue as to which phase of consciousness undergoes initiation may be discerned in the arrangement of the Temple. As you are probably well aware, the layout of the Martinist Temple is very much symbolic of the subconscious phase of mind, which, according to Tradition, is the essential mind of the psychic body. But, as on all planes of existence, the subconscious mind itself manifests a duality. This duality manifests, in part, in the amenability of the subconscious mind to suggestion both from without and from within. Essentially the source of inner suggestion is represented by one’s own conception of “God”, whose presence in the Martinist Temple is represented by the Trigon of Luminaries. It is before this Trigon of Luminaries that one is initiated. Therefore, when, in all humility and worthiness, we bring our subjective awareness, our sense of “who” we are, into that stream of divine effulgence, this simple but sacred act stimulates, enlivens, vivifies and harmonizes the flow of energy in the psychic body and we become receptacles of greater light and power. Inwardly, this allegorical conjunction of the three luminaries of our being causes us to experience a quickening, which manifests outwardly as a deeper understanding, a deeper vision, a sort of rending of the veil of darkness and ignorance. Following the death of the physical body, when the mortal, subjective phase of consciousness fades, it is this deeper vision, this Light of the psychic consciousness, which will continue to bathe and energize the psychic body, directing its activities and creating the conditions for its next incarnation. It is this same “Light” that will mold and illumine the subjective phase of consciousness when the psychic body again inhabits a physical body in a succeeding incarnation. Thus the fruits of our labors, the harvest of our present cycle of growth on this material plane, are preserved from one incarnation to another, revealing themselves as talents, skills and, above all, as character.

Does this mean then that as “initiates” our lives will unfold without challenge, without trials and tribulations? Let us recall that an essential feature of “initiation” is the call to change, the call to a new course of action, the call to a new standard of living and being. Let us recall, further, that anything that is persists in its effort to be, a phenomenon, which, in the language of physics, is called inertia. Thus, this “persistence in being” is as much a part of the physical world as it is of the metaphysical or psychic world, for the distinction between that which we call physical and that which we call psychic lies principally in the limitations imposed by our sense of perception. Therefore, our old habits and attitudes, as metaphysical entities, “persist in their efforts to be” even though “initiation” may have illumined our consciousness and we have decided to embark on a different course. Initiation, therefore, signals “the beginning of work”. Perhaps this point is best illustrated by an example. The case I will relate to you is true in every detail and clearly illustrates the fact, not only that “initiation” is but the beginning of the way, a sort of pointing of the way, but also that our Martinist initiations do work.

I am certain that we can all recall our very first initiation – i.e., that which marked our entry into The Martinist Order as an Associate. Now many have reported that nothing really happened when they participated in their first initiation ritual, while still others report that it changed their lives forever. One of those whose life was radically changed by his first initiation is a Brother who reported that following his participation in the ritual, he became acutely aware that he was indeed in communication with an Inner, more divine part of himself. With this realization the thought occurred to him that he should ask a question, which was of vital importance to him at the time. Our Brother, therefore, asked his “Inner Self” the following question: “Why do I find it so difficult to get along with my father?” “Because you are so much like him”, the Inner Voice shot back! Startled, our Brother sat down to contemplate this unusual response because he had never, ever, before considered himself to be anything remotely resembling his father. He had always considered himself to be “too refined”, “too highly evolved” to be anything like that man! And yet, our Brother reports that from that night onward he could affirm, without equivocation, that there IS, there MUST BE, an Inner Self because HE would never speak to himself like that! Naturally, the Brother accepted, without reservation, the verdict of his Inner Self.

Nevertheless, our Brother’s newly found knowledge concerning the relationship between his father and himself did not miraculously dissolve the old relationship to replace it with a new, more harmonious one. Instead, the newly found knowledge placed the responsibility for changing the relationship squarely upon the shoulders of our Brother, because HE is the one who received enlightenment in this matter. HE is the one who sought and received; HE was the one, therefore, “to give as he had received”. Thus, following “initiation”, our Brother was faced with the real challenge of self-­examination and self-transmutation. In other words, the real work, the real transformation in consciousness for our Brother came after initiation, for initiation is like the quickening of the seed of life which, following an appropriate period of gestation, one eventually gives birth to oneself. Initiation forces us to act – it propels us along the path of evolution!

In closing, I would like to remind you that in participating in our Martinist Initiation Rituals, the actual realization of the quickening of consciousness does not necessarily have to occur while you are participating in the ritual. If it does, then that’s wonderful. However, if it does not, you should not chide yourself for having failed. Worse yet, you should not consider yourself less than those who claim to have had all manner of psychic experiences. For more often than not, the candidate initiates himself or herself, either before or after the actual participation in the ritual on this plane. Therefore, if you have doubts as to whether or not you are truly an “initiate”, you need only examine your life, your attitudes, your sense of self­-worth to see if, over the years you are any closer to your ideal. If your life has changed for the better, then you have been initiated. If, on the other hand, your life has not improved, then you may wish to participate in the initiation ritual, either as an officer, if possible, or as a witness and, while thus participating, live the ritual and see what then happens.

Copyright © 1994 – Zacchaeus – WKLI