When many people think of "initiation" the first thought that often springs to mind is a mystical ceremony in full ceremonial regalia taking place in some super-secret esoteric, occult or mystical society, order or group.
This is largely due to the fact that the word and reality of initiation has been clouded over the centuries to include these visions.
Often initiations have been and still are associated with seemingly barbaric processes that involve the initiate having to undergo some rigorous, dangerous and often painful process to prove him or herself "worthy" of a particular status.
Although this is fortunately less the case these days,such barbaric initiations do still take place in remote cultures, where for example teenage boys are required to "prove" themselves before then can be fully accepted as "man" in the eyes of the tribe. Very often, after such a series of "trials", the body of the boy is modified in some way as a permanent mark of their new social status.
Most esoteric orders perform initation in "degrees" whereby the initiate is elevated to a higher "degree" upon passing certain tests to the satisfaction of the "initiator". Often the initiate is told that they will receive certain priveledges, esoteric knowledge or even powers upon attaining a certain level or "degree".
These are examples of initiations between often small groups of people who have come together and agreed to follow some initiatic process, or have to undergo a compulsory initiatic process in order to attain and retain acceptance within their particular group.
However, these common and understandable cases have largely hidden the fact that every single person without exception is undergoing an initiatic process; the ultimate initiatic process of life itself, and therefore everyone is an initiate of the ongoing process of evolution of Life.
As we know we are all here for one fundamental person; to evolve by experience. Each of our individual incarnations adds to the total experience of our "Higher-Self" and is therefore an initiatic process. Once our Higher-Self attains sufficient experience an initiation occurs that allows our Higher-Self to continue along the path to even greater, glorious experiences, experiences that are beyond the comprehension of individual incarnations on Earth.
So all life is in reality an initiatic process; the final initiation being the ultimate initiation; the opportunity to reunite with The Source, The First Cause, with "God".
So what does this mean to us in practical terms?
In practical terms we should see every single experience, challenge and event as an important aspect of our individual initiation, without which we cannot be fully initiated in order to move on to greater exeriences.
Before we, as our Higher Self, incarnated here on Earth for yet another physical incarnation, our Higher-Self chose the situation that He/She required in order to obtain further experience towards a higher initiation on the ongoing path of life. Our Higher-Selves know full well therefore precisely what situations, challenges and other people will be involved in order obtain the experiences necessary towards His/Her initiation.
Every single situation therefore, however dire it might seem is all part of this initiatic process, which, like any test can be passed or failed. These tests range from huge life events such as contracting an ailment such as cancer, all the way down to small, subtle tests that might involve for example "anger management". In the case of anger management the Higher-Self needs to attain full control over the emotion of "anger". It might therefore place an incarnation in a situation that involves being tolerant of others, for example by having to drive through "rush hour" traffic every morning and evening while remaining totally calm. Once it becomes possible to do this then an initiation in "anger management" has been attained, and which is actually a very important initiation.
Throughout history there have also been group or mass initations whereby large groups of people have been subjected to all kinds of "horrors". How these people accept and deal with these circumstances will determine whether they achieve initiation both individually and as a group. Wars, horrific though they clearly are, provide numerous such initiatic opportunities. This is not of course to condone warfare.
So ultimately life is an initation. Every single experience, positive, negative or indifferent happens for a reason, and in full knowledge of your Higher-Self. Each such experience is an opportunity to make progress towards a full initiatic experience and should be joyfully accepted as such without complaint, taking it personally and above all without blaming others.
Every single situation was known and chosen before we incarnated for its value in our ultimate evolution. If we fail the initiation then we have to experience similar circumstances over again until we finally pass the initiation which in some cases might take many "lifetimes". Therefore we must look closely at every event, however insignificant, dire or indeed joyful it might seem and ask ourselves these simple but important questions:
1) What does this event mean?
2) Why has it "happened" at this particular time?
3) What must I do to accept this situation, learn from it and never have to face it again?
In asking these questions and facing every situation we are presented with, however large or small, "good" or "evil", horrific or joyous, we can face the situation with total confidence and ultimately prevail, thus attaining an important initiation towards our ongoing evolution.
Important points to keep in mind are:
1) There is no such thing as "chance". Everything happens for a reason.
2) Everything that happens to us we chose and knew before we incarnated.
3) We are never, ever, ever presented with a situation that is beyond our current ability to prevail. No harm can come to us.
In knowing, understanding and living our lives accordingly we can not only save ourselves considerable suffering, we can also save ourselves potentially many physical incarnations, because whatever a person fails to achieve in a current lifetime they will need to return again to pass that initiation in a further lifetime.
This is also a solution to the secret of "alchemy". The legend of the transmutation of base metals into gold is actually symbolic of the process of the transmutation of our base characteristics into the gold of perfection. The biblical fable of the turning "water into wine" is exactly the same process and meaning.
Always reject notions of initiation when they are present in an elitist or egostical way; people presenting the sacred reality of initiation in this way still themselves have initiations to pass; those of recognition that everyone is equal, and subjogation of the ego.
Knowing these important facts we can face life joyfully and with confidence, being thankful for every situation we are presented with as an opportunity to progress, in the knowledge that we are never presebted with a situation that is beyond our capability, and above all no harm can ever come to us.
I will conclude this appropriate verse:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley