What is Initiation?
From the same root as the Latin initia, which means the basic or first principles of any Science. The practice of initiation or admission into the sacred Mysteries, taught by the Hierophants and learned priests of the Temples, is one of the most ancient customs.
This was practised in every old national religion. In Europe it was abolished with the fall of the last pagan temple. There exists at present but one kind of initiation known to the public, namely that into the Masonic rites. Masonry, however, has no more secrets to give out or conceal. In the palmy days of old, the Mysteries, according to the greatest Greek and Roman philosophers, were the most sacred of all solemnities as well as the most beneficent, and greatly promoted virtue.
The Mysteries represented the passage from mortal life into finite death, and the experiences of the disembodied Spirit and Soul in the world of subjectivity. In our own day, as the secret is lost, the candidate passes through sundry meaningless ceremonies and is initiated into the solar allegory of Hiram Abiff, the “Widow’s Son”.
Technically, initiation is an artificial, scientific process which speeds up the evolutionary process; historically it is very old. It is not obligatory -- individual men and women can take as long as they like to achieve perfection. But it provides the means whereby those who are ready and willing to make the effort to undergo the trials and tests and, above all, to make the sacrifices and renunciations which initiation demands, can speed the journey of evolution immeasurably, and thus serve more fully the Plan of the Logos.
The requirements for each initiation have necessarily changed as mankind has evolved; each new stage reached by humanity as a whole pushes upwards these requirements. Today, from the Masters' point of view, the third is the first true (soul) initiation, the first and second being really preparatory, demonstrating the control of the vehicles -- physical and astral respectively -- of the personality. Through these purified and integrated bodies, the divine inner man, the soul, makes its presence felt, gripping the vehicles and shining through the personality. When that integration includes the controlled mental body, the third initiation can be experienced.
Synchronicity of vibration is the key to this process. The soul can only manifest itself to any great extent through vehicles of analogous vibration. It is for this reason that so much emphasis has been laid, in all teachings, on purity -- of physical body, of feelings, of mind and of motive. The process of purification rightly starts on the Probationary Path; by the time the Initiatory Path is being trodden, the habits of purity are expected to be already established and automatic.
The first initiation is called the Birth Initiation. It is the result of the birth of the Christ consciousness in the cave of the heart, and aspirants who have undergone this experience will have oriented themselves towards the spiritual life.
The second initiation demonstrates emotional control, control of the astral elemental, just as the first demonstrated control of the physical elemental.
The third initiation, the Transfiguration, demonstrates the completely integrated personality, soul infused and responding now to the energy of the Monad. Love, wisdom and dynamic will, the attributes of the soul, now shine clearly through the personality, and a creative life of world service and effectiveness ensues.