- Author Hidayat Inayat-Khan
The word «initiation» could be understood in many ways, according to the disposition that one has when confronted by that experience, but among the many possible definitions of that term, one of them could be associated with the concept of «initiative». A first step taken is an initiative, whether it be taken consciously or unconsciously. For instance, birth is an initiative, and as the child grows, and all through its life, every decision taken is, in fact, an initiative. In other words, life on earth could be seen as a constant succession of initiatives taken.
These initiatives can be of a material, cultural, religious or spiritual nature, among numerous other possibilities, and are taken out of free will. When resistance arises, it is because initiative is imposed rather than free, or because the opportunity is misunderstood. Reasoning often holds one back from taking an initiative which could have been a successful one. Although it is the reasoning power which helps one to accomplish one's purpose, it is often that same reasoning power which holds one back from taking an initiative. Nevertheless, every great initiative taken by great creative souls has only been as powerful as it was because the power of that initiative was not handicapped by lack of conviction as to its value or doubt as to its outcome.
Often, before the value of initiative has been recognized, even one's best friends, from whom one would normally expect encouragement, are likely to either think or to say that it is a mad project, a fanatical enterprise or an unreasonable decision. In fact, it is not reason which inspires such opinions from others, but rather that a critical eye is mostly critical out of feelings of incapacity or, in other words, jealousy, rather than wise insight.
There are several types of initiation that one can experience. Some could be understood as being natural initiations received, and others as being initiatives taken without any logical explanation. Among natural initiations, some come unexpectedly, after great illness, pain or suffering, as an opening of the horizon, as a flash of light, as though the world has been transformed in a moment. In fact, that person has become attuned to a different pitch, and begins to think differently, feel differently, to see and act differently. Indeed one begins to live differently, for one's entire attitude in life has been completely transformed, and nothing seems any more to be a handicap to the accomplishment of one's decisions.
This is a sudden change of outlook on life. A person remains active in the same world in which he or she moved previously, but feels totally indifferent to it, for one feels quite awakened to a different world. Things which seemed important become less important. Things show themselves with different values. One may be young or old, having less or more experience, yet initiation comes at any time in one's life — to some gradually, to others suddenly. These events are understood by the term 'natural initiation'.
As to initiatives taken without any logical explanation, these are the result of influences which have been received from an external source. These influences can, regrettably, be negative ones at times; but they can also be of a very positive nature, such as when inspired by knowledge received or through the influence of an inspiring person. That initiative can also be brought about through spiritual understanding, which is bestowed upon one inasmuch as the heart is open to the silent call. Initiation, in that case, is also the result of one's attunement to inspiring personalities whom one respects and, and whose example one wishes to follow, having been won by their charm. There is also such a thing as trust, confidence and admiration.
The subjects of initiation and the path of initiation have been lavishly discussed and written about, particularly in regard to various esoteric orders, all of which have different methods resulting in the many directions taken by their initiations. But contrary to the confusion brought about by so much abuse of the word, initiation simply means to take a step forward — a step taken with hope and courage, a step taken with conviction. This, of course, implies absolute honesty and integrity on the part of the person or order bearing the responsibility of an initiative taken. However, as the great Persian poet Ghazzali says, 'Starting off on the spiritual path is like shooting an arrow at a point one cannot see, so that one does not know what the arrow is really going to hit/ Obviously, it is difficult for the average person to take the path of initiation, because human nature is such that one wishes to know the likely outcome of any action taken, before one can believe that there is any reality in it. This explains why it is sometimes so difficult to undergo an initiation on a path which leads to an unknown destination.
There are various stages of initiation, the first ones taken with the help of guidance, either by teachings or by the helpful hand of a person in whom one has put all one's trust, or even by inspiration. These first stages could be understood as the stage of friendship toward teacher. But, in fact, motherhood is the first initiation, for it is the mother who offers the first helping hand to the young child on the path of life.
Although one might come in contact with false gurus, one should always be aware that there is a teacher within. That teacher is one's own sincere self, and therefore one shall, without doubt, sooner or later find true teaching. In the end, the real shall vanquish the false, simply for the reason that truth is more real than falsehood. As there is water in the depths of the earth, in the same way, there is truth in the depths of all things, false and true. In some places one has to dig deeper than in other places, but just as there is no place where there is no water under the earth, there is always truth to be found in the depth of the heart. If one believes in right guidance from above, one shall always be guided aright.
The next steps on the path of initiation consist in successfully passing the tests of life, some of which are experienced unconsciously, and others consciously. One faces tests of all natures, where one must display such qualities as faith, sincerity, truthfulness, patience, endurance and humility, even if such qualities appear at times unreasonable, odd, meaningless, unkind and even perhaps unjust. Further initiations awaken the urge to meditate upon all that one has discovered in one's relationship with others, assimilating the results with insight, gratitude and understanding.
Still further initiations are the result of one's ideal, and the greater one's ideal, the greater the power of initiation received. Such an initiation is a phenomenon in itself because the initiate then radiates the luminosity of his or her ideal. Later, that ideal even ceases to be the ideal of the initiate, when the very self of the initiate becomes lost in one's own ideal. At that stage, the initiate need no more declare outwardly one's love for God, because one's own self is the illustration of that love in feeling, attitude, word and action. When one really sees the Divine in all things and in all beings, one need not say that one sees; that sight is evident. At that stage, one sees none other than God in all, and consequently the initiate becomes oneself a living God. Before this, there was belief in God, there was worship of God, but at this stage there is none but God. The God-realized person does not discuss about the Godliness of God. Their presence alone reveals the presence of God in all beings, whatever be their religion, or the religion of those in whose presence the initiate is charging the atmosphere with the reality of God. Following this stage, the initiate inspires the manner of God in one's outlook. One's action, thought and words are God's action, God's thought and God's words. This explains why, as we read in all holy scriptures, in all religions there is a mention of the word of God expressed through the lips of the Messenger.
In the orient, where mysticism has prevailed for centuries and centuries, initiation has always been regarded as being most sacred. Divine knowledge has never been taught in words, nor will it ever be done so. The work of a mystic is not to teach with words, but to tune those who are open to that which is offered, so that the seeker becomes an instrument of God. In other words, the mystic is not the player of the instrument, but rather, its tuner. And when tuned, the instrument is then given into the hands of the player, whose playing becomes more and more clearly the expression of Divine music. On that path, there are no rules to follow, because every adept is like a different instrument in the Divine symphony. But there is one basic principle which applies to the manner of life of all concerned, and that is sincerity in humility.
The progress of the seeker of truth depends solely upon oneself, although one's progress is lovingly looked upon by others. It is in the happiness of those around one that the seeker advances mostly. This happiness, which is an unfoldment of the inner self, comes as an expansion of consciousness. One could consequently say that the degree of advancement on the path is indicated by the expansion of the horizon of the consciousness, not only of the adept, but of those around one. In this connection, it is unfortunate that many may claim, yet few have sincerely realized their claim. Those who realize, do not claim. Like a very fruitful tree, which bends the more that its fruit is abundant, in the same way, the deeper the spiritual realization of the adept, the humbler he or she becomes. The one who is pretentious obviously gives no fruit. The sincere initiate hardly ever mentions the word initiation, and feels no need to convert others to their path, nor any need for recognition. If asked what profit is derived by spiritual attainment, the only answer is, in order to become better fitted for serving humanity.
If asked whether it is desirable for all to take initiation, inasmuch as the word 'initiation' refers to the concept of taking initiative, or in other words, going forward, it is obvious that the answer would be, every progress in life is worthwhile venturing. Whatever be one's interest in life, or one's grade of evolution, it is always advisable to go forward, be it in material occupations, social occupations, religious occupations or spiritual ones. No doubt there are various methods of spiritual help, but the human being was not created to live as an angel, just as we were not created to live as an animal. The first step toward consciousness is to become sincerely human, or in other words, to be in balance with both the spiritual and material worlds. It is not necessary to seek spirituality in isolation from relationships and duty. It is much more preferable to contemplate and meditate along with one's worldly duties, helping intentionally or unintentionally by one's example, those who are not conscious of the realization which is offered to them.
The initiate on the spiritual path is well aware of the fact that one is not expected to awaken those who are still asleep, but to be prepared to offer a helping hand as soon as the slumbering ones begin to stir. This is basically what is understood by the role of initiation. No doubt, there are ways and methods of teaching in word and action, but nevertheless there is also a way called silent teaching, which applies undeniably to subjects of an abstract nature. One person may argue for hours and days and months about a problem which still cannot be explained, while another, through inner radiance, may offer an answer without words, in one moment. This is again another definition of the concept of initiation.
Initiation is synonymous to courage and the determination to advance spiritually. This firmness of conviction is put to the test in many ways, such as when one's faith is opposed by the words or thoughts of others. But even if one is told that it may take years and years before any realization is obtained, one is prepared to persevere, even for a thousand years. In other words, on the mystical path, steadfastness, patience, trust, understanding, willingness and so many other virtues are required. This of course brings up the question, might one perhaps be disappointed at some time? To this the answer is: one must trust for the sake of trust, and for the sake of a return in the way of the fruit of one's trust. Utmost trust is the greatest power there is; lack of trust is regrettable weakness. Therefore, one could say that even if there is a loss as a result of one's trust, there is still a gain obtained in the development of that great power.
To the question, what can be expected through initiation; could it be goodness, health, magnetism, insight, psychological attunement. The answer is that none of these could really be considered as spiritual results, and one should never intentionally strive for any of them. Suppose one develops power and does not know how to use it. It could have a disastrous effect by the very fact that one's ability to attract good and bad is developed without being in a position to rid oneself of that which could be detrimental to oneself and others. These sought — for achievements are not to be considered in connection with initiation. The aim is to find God within, and it is toward this end that, through the power of initiation one receives all inspiration and blessings for that purpose.
There is a time for everything, and therefore, of course, illumination has its time. Real progress on the spiritual path goes along with the experiences of patience and eagerness to progress, notwithstanding the various tests in life, such as misunderstandings by one's nearest friends, and misfortunes for which one tries not to put the blame on God. On the path, specific conditions are required, such as the attitude of receptivity, the ability of assimilating apparent and silent teachings, and the fixing of all experiences in the mind, without letting these be distorted by the limitations of reason. Although this discipline appears to be guided by unseen hierarchy, it is nevertheless the very expression of democracy in that it represents the outward revelation of the most secret truth, and so it may be understood in a few words as, aristocracy of the feeling and democracy of the expression.
As we know, the word initiation is interpreted by different people in different ways. By some it is considered to be a commitment to a secret order. To others it is understood to be a promotion to a higher grade. These and many other such explanations make up a catalogue of misunderstandings as to what the word initiation really means. Furthermore, there are many different inducements which lead one to initiation, for instance, initiation coming from within when a person is inspired to proceed onwards by the example of a fellow adept on the path. When one begins to feel that there is something behind the veil, and that one wishes to make every possible effort to discover that mystery, one then takes the first step, which is, in other words, initiation.
People often make a great mystery about the word initiation, but there is a very simple explanation: it is the clearing away of past regrets; it is bathing in the sacred waters of inner knowledge; it is making good use of the experiences and powers gained through obtaining discipline over one's own ego. There are various paths and methods of attainment, all leading to the same ideal, but no initiate will ever reach that goal unless devotion and humility are the two shoes used to tread upon the path.
May the sacred 'speaking' Ka'aba stone, which Abraham (father of three great religious streams) is said to have placed thousands of years ago as a Temple of Initiation, symbolizing the ideal of One and the same God, become for ever an example of dignity and devotion for all those venturing on the path of discipleship, without any distinction of religion or belief.