by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© November 2013, L.D.Wilson Consultants, Inc.
DEFINITIONS OF AN INITIATION
The word to initiate or an initiation means a beginning or start of something new. However, in many societies, and in this article, it has a particular meaning. Here the idea of an initiation means an ordeal, trial, test or task that one must do in order to move on quickly in some way, or be recognized or acknowledged in some way. In other words, this special meaning of the word initiation has to do with something more than just a beginning. It always involves a test or a testing process of some kind.
A spiritual definition of initiation. Initiations can be important steps on the path of mental or spiritual development of every human being. A definition of initiation in this context that will be explained more below is a confluence of events or situations that force a decision to be made, usually to do with courage, maturity, or greater responsibility. It is also usually somewhat unpleasant, or perceived that way, although this is not always so.
QUALITIES OF AN INITIATION
1. It must be something rather special and unusual that is out of the participant’s normal routine or lifestyle. For example, a standard test in a school does not qualify as an initiation, because it is not that special or different.
The unusual nature of the initiatory test means that it requires a certain daring, maturity or sense of adventure to take it on and complete it.
2. It must be somewhat all-consuming or almost overwhelming in its scope, magnitude or intensity. In other words, it is not just an after-school activity or a simple job, for example. However, it could occur as part of one’s occupation, such as having to rebuild a business after a flood or a fire.
This intensity is unusual for most people, and requires commitment and willingness to move ahead boldly.
3. It requires that one separate, at least somewhat, from one’s family of origin and one’s friends in order to accomplish the initiatory task or trial.
This requires and builds maturity and a more independent spirit.
4. It must be difficult, and somewhat odd or strange. This is different from #1 above. It means that the task or trial will be challenging, and perhaps even life-threatening, or at least somewhat dangerous. It cannot be too easy or just a rubber stamp approval process. This requires a certain amount of courage and persistence in the face of danger. One must be the warrior or a trooper to succeed in the task.
5. It must throw the student out of control in some way, and the student’s weaknesses must be exposed. This teaches a type of faith and self-love. Learning to love the self through all trials, even when the self is in pain, out of control or in deep fear, is an important lesson in life.
6. It usually involves some horror, unpleasantness or even seeming insanity. For example, one who knows nothing about a subject may be asked to write a book about it. One who is unfamiliar with a particular language or culture may be asked to live and work in that culture, rather than one he or she knows. A diehard vegetarian may be asked to live on meat and eggs, or vice versa. In each case, there is an element of horror, unpleasantness, difficulty or even seeming insanity about the request.
This is done purposely. The goal is to challenge the student or child to respond in new ways, at a different level, perhaps, or with new motivation than he or she has done in the past. To complete the task, the student must often let go of judgments and go against the desires of the ego mind.
7. It often requires some creative thinking or improvising. For example, one may be asked to accomplish a seemingly impossible task, or accomplish a task with little money, or very quickly, perhaps.
This requires finding unique or unusual solutions to problems. This can help develop quick and unique ways of thinking, maturity and daring.
8. Initiations are often about opportunities for rapid movement toward a higher goal. An initiation must be seen as an opportunity, not just a difficult choice or challenge. The opportunity is to move ahead rapidly in one’s personal development.
In other words, the reason for initiations, in one sense, is to move a person along faster on the road to becoming a wiser and more loving being. This is a critical concept. Otherwise, initiations may just seem like small or large tortures that are thought up by mean-spirited teachers, gurus, guides, or even one’s parents or others.
If initiations are opportunities, they should be viewed with gratitude or a grateful attitude, even if the task seems unpleasant or even dangerous. This attitude is always helpful by the way, when dealing with initiations. An attitude of resentment, disgust, fear or anger are much less helpful and usually lead to failure.
EXAMPLES OF INITIATIONS
1. Initiation is used as an integral part of the training of a monk or nun in certain parts of the world. The student or trainee is suddenly presented with a new task or responsibility. It usually involves demonstrating fighting or other skills, and performance of a difficult mental task.
The teacher, or the one in charge, watches to see how the neophyte handles the rather unusual task.
2. To a degree, initiations are sometimes used in business situations to test an employee, for example, with a new and complex task. This is a limited type of initiation as it does not usually fulfill all the criteria above such as separating the person from his or her family and friends.
3. Joining the army or the marines is a type of initiation process. It is purposely designed this way, to mature the soldiers to build a modern and competent army. Joining the army is not as rigorous as it used to be, however, thanks to political correctness, which tends to hinder the initiation process as it limits people’s options.
4. Unusual initiations. In the film, The Emerald Forest, a young man is initiated into the adult community as a man by enduring an ordeal involving being bitten by hundreds of poisonous ants, rendering him semi-conscious for a time.
5. African and other native people’s initiations. Among some African Bushmen, a young man must hunt down and kill a lion to be accepted as a mature man in the tribe. Women were required to show their skills in finding and preparing certain foods or herbs in order to be accepted as mature women in the society.
This type of initiation was and still is common among indigenous peoples such as native Americans, the Aborigines of Australia, and many others.
6. Naturally-occurring initiatory experiences. These are interesting because they are not set up by a teacher, an elder or others. Instead, they appear to occur randomly as one is just living one’s life. They are not necessarily initiatory experiences, as they can be very dangerous, or too mild to really make a difference in a person’s life at a deep level. However, sometimes they definitely fulfill the qualifications for a true initiation, and people may realize this, even if they don’t express this.
Such experiences may include severe accidents or illnesses, a rape or beating, death or disability of someone close, or perhaps a traumatic move to a distant land. Even a significant job loss, death of a pet, marriage, divorce or something else that is perceived as almost transformational, can act as an initiation for a particular person. Sometimes, the universe is better at assigning initiatory tasks than any earthly teacher or guide.
PASSING OR FAILING YOUR INITIATION
An important concept with regards to initiation is that it is often more than simply a pass or fail situation. For example, when given the new task or responsibility, a number of responses are possible:
1. The student may reject the entire task. This may mean the student is not ready. However, it can also mean the student is just lazy, has an improper perception of his or her abilities, or has another reason to reject the task such as a preoccupation with other work, perhaps, or a problem working it into his schedule, or something else.
If the student does not “show up” to take on the task, it is a failure of the initiation, even if it is not entirely the student’s fault.
2. The student may take on the task, but not succeed at it. This is a failure at one level. However, the task may be extremely difficult, and the student may demonstrate excellent abilities even though he or she did not succeed well.
3. The student may take on the task, but may die or become ill or disabled in the process of completing it. This is a failure, but is not as bad. It may also mean the task was too hard, or the teacher or guide was not paying enough attention and allowed a death or disabling to take place. One could say this is a partial success, but certainly not a complete success.
4. The student may succeed at the task, but someone else is hurt or even dies. This is also a partial failure, at the very least. Blame must be placed where needed, and another opportunity presented to make up for the failure.
5. The student may take on the task and succeed quite well. This usually clears the way for more challenging initiations. Rarely, however, it is variable because, for example, the student may find a “shortcut” method to accomplish the task that does not challenge him or her very much. This could be viewed as a great success, or it could be viewed that the goals of the initiation were only partially demonstrated, and another initiation that is more difficult is needed.
6. The student may reject the task or responsibility, but suggest something else that is equally daunting or difficult, or the task changes as it is researched and performed. Here it is also difficult, at times, to say if one has succeeded or failed. At one level, the student failed the appointed task, but perhaps the student had the insight to suggest something even better or more challenging, and is able to do this instead. This would suggest success in a high degree.
This possibility can occur because teachers and guides are fallible, and sometimes the student understands his or her needs better than the teacher, and is able to suggest a task that is better than that which the teacher has suggested, although it is rare.
7. The student may complete the task perfectly, or nearly so. This is clearly a successful initiation. The only possible flaw is if the teacher underestimated the student’s abilities and if the completion of the selected task or trial was not challenging for the student. In this case, it is still a success for the student. The teacher or guide must simply look for a more challenging initiation in the future.
FAKE OR FALSE INITIATIONS
Today the word initiation is sometimes badly misapplied. This can be due to simple ignorance of what an initiation is and is for, or it may be done purposely to confuse. Here are examples:
1. Initiations are not simply grading systems, like having a black belt in karate or having a PhD degree. This is not enough of a challenge.
2. “Rites of passage” such as a bar mitzvah, confirmation at church, or getting your driver’s license at age 16 are not initiations, as they are not nearly challenging enough. Surviving a bad car accident may be a type of initiation, but not just passing a driver’s test.
3. “Initiations” into some clubs, college fraternities, cults and secret societies are usually hazing or other things, but not initiations because they do not require exercising excellent judgment and moving ahead spiritually in one’s life.
Some groups require the taking of oaths of loyalty, for example, even sharing blood with other members. This has nothing to do with initiation of the type this article discusses. A street gang may require new members to commit a burglary, or sometimes even kill someone to “prove their loyalty”. This, of course, is a very dysfunctional type of situation.
Other clubs and groups require ritualized beatings or other tortures of new members as part of their entrance requirements. College girls inducted into a sorority house may be required to have sex with someone publically, or at least undress and be humiliated. Men or boys may be required to undress and be penis-whipped. Other tortures are less extreme, such as getting a person drunk or soiling a person with urine or feces.
These are really forms of hazing and bullying, not initiations, no matter what they are called! These practices can, however, bond the group members together if the person survives, and are very useful for brainwashing, hypnotizing and conditioning the minds of some people under the guise of “starting a new life with the group”. However, they do not fulfill the criteria above for true initiations, and should not be termed initiations.
NUTRITIONAL BALANCING PROGRAMS AS INITIATORY EXPERIENCES
While very different from the initiations of the Bushmen, for example, following a nutritional balancing program has all the elements of an initiatory process.
For example, I receive comments from detractors telling me I am crazy to insist upon:
- a diet of mainly cooked vegetables,
- three liters of spring water only every day
- going to bed early each night,
- putting coffee in the rectum daily
- sweating in a lamp sauna, even in the heat of summer
- abstaining from much sex more than once a week, at most
- meditating in a particular way
- only doing gentle exercise
- rubbing the feet every day, and more.
These are deemed silly, wrong, horrible and perhaps even insane by those who do not understand them. Yes, the program is unusual, intense, unpleasant, at times, not dangerous but it can seem so, and most people will not get the support from their family and friends, let alone their doctors. These are the criteria for an initiatory task.
In addition, once a person agrees to follow a program, the initiatory experiences may increase. The program itself seems to create them. Suddenly, one’s energy level may drop, or an infection or other symptom develops out of nowhere. Unusual and unpleasant emotions may surface, quite out of nowhere. Friends, family and one’s doctor will often not approve, and they may apply pressure to stop one from continuing. The program can strain marriages, affect one’s job performance, and affect every aspect of a person’s life.
It can even seem, at times, that one is going backwards, becoming worse instead of better. Yet, in our experience, if one is following the right program, the symptoms do not indicate a worsening of a condition, but almost always is retracing, a very unusual process that is not at all like going backwards. (This is not true of other programs that I have followed, such as a vegetarian diet or many others. In these cases, a worsening of health is possible and rather common, and may be mistaken for retracing.)
To many people, the discipline and retracing reactions of a nutritional balancing program seem rather insane. Why bother, the ego mind shouts! Why do this? The answer is that it is part of an initiatory process that is the fastest way back to real health that I have ever come across.
Taking a drug or natural remedy may be easier, but it does not move one along nearly as fast or as profoundly as the rather total immersion in a nutritional balancing program. Some can see this, but many cannot. I, too, had plenty of doubts about nutritional balancing, so I understand their concerns. Over the years, I, too, wondered why I was doing this program, but I have kept at it and am very pleased with the results, as are thousands of others.
Meanwhile, many of the old initiatory methods have been abandoned or are not working as well today. Nutritional balancing may represent a new kind of initiation that is politically and socially acceptable, even if it is unusual in the minds of some.