The Truth About the Stages of Initiation
There has always been interest in the concept of self-initiation; that is to say, immersing one’s self into an established mystical current without the aid of initiating members; this practice is often performed as an alternative to the more traditional forms of initiation. Although, many in the occult community hold that self-initiation is a valid tool toward spiritual advancement, they nevertheless, believe that it cannot replace full, traditional inititation. While no one questions whether or not self-initiation is a worthwhile practice, yielding positive results, the confusion lies in the presumed expectation as to what self-initiation achieves within the individual. In order to develop a realistic assessment as to what self-initiation should purport to achieve; we must analyze the basic steps, which lead someone to pursue the path of order initiation.
The magical path is difficult; it may be the most difficult task that you will ever undertake. Anyone who tells you different is simply not rendering to you accurate information. In fact, considerable effort must be invested before even one step is placed upon the path. We can reasonably regard the antecedent and prerequisite work leading toward full initiation as self-initiation, because unless the individual proactively pursues the magical way of life entirely on his or her own accord, they will not claim ownership of the traditional Golden Dawn current or any other magical path.
The first step leading toward full initiation is self-improvement: we all reach a point at least once in our lives where we feel the need for major improvements, and this necessarily involves self initiated, positive changes. Self-improvement is the practice of changing one’s self in pursuit of a better life. This could be anything from quitting a bad habit, starting an exercise program, taking a college class or simply reading educational books: the main thing is that it requires an investment of effort and it changes one’s self image in a positive way. Wherever someone is at in their life, they will make positive changes in preparation for their magical journey.
The second step is self-empowerment: this runs deeper than self-improvement and it will demand a greater level of commitment to pursue. Self-empowerment is preceded by self-improvement, at least in part because a greater level of self-esteem is needed to claim empowerment. One important distinction between the two is that empowerment necessarily demands courage to pursue; this could involve, ending a bad relationship, changing one’s career or simply facing an anxiety or phobia: the main thing is that it brings one to a higher level of courage and inner strength. Everyone, regardless of their ultimate goal will at one time or another, undertake the process of self-improvement and self-empowerment; it is a natural part of the human experience to grow and increase the quality of one’s life and influence over one’s environment.
The third step is self-initiation: this step is far more focused than the previous two; it involves choosing one’s magical path. The previous steps may or may not involve magic or the occult, but self-initiation specifically, expresses the desire to immerse one’s aura into a particular, magical current. The forth step is full, traditional initiation, that is to say, initiation into a traditional, magical order, performed by an authorized Hierophant and temple officers either physically in full temple, or through astral initiation. Self-initiation is a positive step toward one’s committed magical path. Since initiation into a traditional order necessarily involves profound commitment, many may prefer to remain in the third step and elect to avoid deeper involvement in the mysteries, however, any reduction of magical investment in one’s personal power produces correspondingly disparaged results. The question then arises as to whether or not the full benefit of traditional initiation can be derived from self-initiation. It is important to understand the nature of full initiation and how it compares and contrasts with alternative forms of initiation in order to assess what results can and should be anticipated in either case. Magical initiations have been performed on aspirants since before recorded history, and they are still an integral part of the magical path of modern times. Throughout history traditions have emerged from mystical primordial soup and their fires burned for a time only to become extinguished when their teachers ceased teaching and initiating new members. In some cases, traditions evolved and adapted into thriving modern philosophies; they may even scarcely resemble what they once were. The mystical fire, which keeps the magical heart of a tradition beating, is passing the torch of initiation from teacher to student.
What we create magically has a life of its own; we must infuse life force into our magical work or it will have no power. Magic is a living creation, so it possesses characteristics inherent in all living things. This is because magical current is life energy and it imitates life. You inherit characteristics from your parents, grandparents and beyond, and not just obvious physical traits, but personality traits, propensity toward ailments and disease, as well as whatever your parents may choose to leave you materially; you are a product of those living before you and who gave you life. As the name suggests, initiation initiates the living magical being within us; it awakens and stirs to life that portion of ourselves that exists beyond what we see and hear in our material plane. The initiator invokes and subsequently assumes the appropriate god form specific to his or her role in the initiatory process; this becomes the fitting vessel containing the proper energies to infuse this magical life force into the initiation and into the candidate. There are several god forms necessary for full, initiation in the traditional Golden Dawn current; they are strategically positioned in the temple to harmonize and balance the Alchemical Elements and they impress their substance onto the one being initiated, so the candidate becomes the magical progeny of the initiating order. The life force of the officers and indeed the guardians of the order itself mingle with the invoked energies forming a unique blend of magical, life force energy, and we inherit characteristics from this in a manner similar to how we inherit characteristics from our parents; in time we will manifest qualities, subtle and obvious, which are traceable to our magical parents.
Reproduction and initiation are clearly parallel in many respects, we may wonder if the similarities extend into the realm of self-initiation. There does not seem to be any clear and obvious way to determine whether or not someone could self-initiate into the mysteries; however, if we apply the Hermetic axiom “as above, so below; as below, so above” we can extend our observation regarding the birth of children and extrapolate the probability of this occurring. Initiation is handed down from teacher to student; the student grows and at length becomes the teacher and in turn, initiates a student, in much the same way children grow and become parents. Arguably, prior to birth no one has any clear memory of his or her existence, so we would have no way of knowing whether or not it is possible to self-initiate one’s birth. However, what we can observe and verify is that parents initiate a child’s birth and children do not generate their own birth. There is no evidence, which would in any way suggest that a child could initiate its own birth into this world. Based on what we know, it does not seem likely that someone could fully initiate oneself into the mysteries. Within us all, there is a latent self, dormant, lifeless, waiting for birth; it is potential, and we could no more infuse life into it than a child could generate its own conception. The spark, which we need, does not originate with us; it precedes us; magic is a living thing and like all life, it is passed from parent to child, teacher to student ad infinitum.
Self-initiation is a primary and very important step toward the magical way of life; it prepares one for the ever-increasing Light received along the Path. There is no definitive proof as to whether or not self-initiation can serve as an alternative to traditional initiation; ultimately one must choose for his or her self what will best serve their spiritual development. However, it would appear that self-initiation is incapable of providing the camaraderie of brothers and sisters with whom one could share one’s growth and development in the Great Work. A traditional order rendering full initiation receives the candidate as a family receives a newborn child; the candidate is thereafter a brother or a sister; family. There really is no substitute for what someone could learn, share and experience working in a magical fraternity.
Learn more about full initiation with the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn.
To read about self-initiation, we suggest the following books:
“Self-inititation”, by Chic and Tabitha Cicero
“The Essential Golden Dawn”, by Chic and Tabitha Cicero
“Modern Magic”, by Donald Michael King
“The Golden Dawn”, by Israel Regardie
“Corner Stones of the Golden Dawn”, by Frater P.D.R.