Initiation is a rite or Ritual that marks the psychological or spiritual crossing of a threshold into new territories, knowledge, and abilities. Initiation brings a sense of attainment and accomplishment and effects subtle changes deep within the psyche in terms of how an individual perceives herself or himself. The central theme to initiation is suffering, death, and rebirth. The initiate undergoes an ordeal, symbolically dies, and is symbolically reborn as a new person, possessing new wisdom.
In magic, initiation marks entry into a closed and secret society and opens the door to the development of magical powers and advanced consciousness. In its highest sense, initiation marks a spiritual transformation, in which the initiate begins a journey into Self and to reaching toward the divine. Many traditional initiation rites exist. Initiation may be experienced in a group or alone. It may be formal or informal. It may be done in an old ritual or a new one; it may come as a spontaneous spiritual awakening, in meditation, or in dreams. A person prepares for initiation through purification, such as fasting, bathing, baptism, and meditation.
There are two main types of esoteric and magical initiation: physical and nonphysical. Dion Fortune noted that they are usually done together, though one can be experienced without the other. A physical initiation marks entry into study in accordance with the structure and purpose of a group or lodge. A nonphysical initiation is a spiritual experience in which an initiate gains inner planes contacts.
Fortune described initiation as “the dawning of the Inner Light, or coming into manifestation on the physical planes of the Augoeides, or Body of Light.” The initiate is someone whose higher self has entered the personality, facilitating enlightenment. A traditional format in magical orders is initiation by the four elements in a series of trials. Magical lodges—as well as organizations of Wiccans and Pagans—have series of initiations that mark the progress of an individual’s knowledge and skill.
- Fortune, Dion. Esoteric Orders and Their Work and the Training and Work of the Initiate. London: The Aquarian Press, 1987.
- Gray, William G. Magical Ritual Methods. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1980.
- Greer, John Michael. Inside a Magical Lodge: Group Ritual in the Western Tradition. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1998.