Initiation is a term frequently used to refer to the process undergone by the applicant to a magical order. This involves a number of tests (including practical and moral) and requires the candidate to swear an oath to uphold the values and precepts of the order. It can be likened to a magical rebirth. This valuable step can also occur in the life of a solitary practitioner, although the form it takes tends to vary with each situation. I will take this time to examine the process of initiation with particular emphasis on its nature and benefits for the individual. This is worthwhile, as initiatory events are quite likely to occur in ones life whether or not this is the intention of the practitioner.
The defining features of initiation, as mentioned, are testing and dedication. Testing takes many forms, and may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary tests are those devised by oneself or another, and undertaken willingly. The kind of test depends upon what the designer regards as necessary for magical work to begin (not to say that it is mandatory for a person to undergo such tests prior to beginning work). The skills that are most important for a magician mostly involve concentration, but the kind of concentration depends on the circumstances. An example of a simple test is to choose an image and gaze on it or visualize it constantly for an hour or more. If you can manage this without wandering off into daydream or giving up in disgust, youíre doing alright. Another example is to stand in a neutral position and remain in that posture for an hour or more without moving. These are simple things, but they can be quite difficult for a beginner. They are sub forms of Yoga, which is itself very useful. An alternative could be to pick a spot in the open and remain there for a set period; staying overnight in a Cemetery might be apposite, or just standing on one spot in the street for a few hours, not leaving for any reason. It is best to use your own ingenuity in devising tests, as you will know your own limits. Do not pick something impossible, but do take care to stretch yourself. If you have any masochism in your character, this should not require great effort.
Far more interesting are the involuntary tests. These are spontaneous events that take place without warning, usually involving some hazard to oneself or another. They are times when magick becomes not a mere indulgence or amusing hobby, but a vital necessity. There isnít any way to tell you what will happen in this line, but it is almost inevitable that situations will arise in which you will be tried. It is best to be prepared for this, and a sound method is to study and practice the basics. Examples may include an Ďassaultí by spirits, or an overwhelming (and unreasonable) fit of depression. It will be hard, but it is always possible to survive and learn from such things. Of course, it is not always in magick that your testing will occur. Family members or close friends may require very mundane aid, and the way in which you respond to their plight will demonstrate your character and integrity.
Dedications tend to take the form of oaths. According to Crowley, a magical oath is always effective, so I suggest you be cautious when formulating an oath. It is not necessary to make such a commitment, but it can be useful to mark off a period of your life, to begin afresh. If there is a serious long-term goal that you regard as vital to your life, then that may be a worthy subject of the oath. Or you may affirm a certain set of principles, such as an ethical code. I should warn you that whatever oath you take is liable to produce a response in the form of involuntary testing, as outlined above. Of course, there is no value in an oath if it is not tested, so this is to be expected and even welcomed. That is not to suggest that the experience will be pleasant.
As you might have guessed, there are also involuntary or tacit dedications. These come into play when a series of events causes one to commit to a particular course of action without that being the result of planning or conscious intent. Unexpected happenings have the property of shaking up all of oneís preconceptions, forcing one to adapt and (in a sense) evolve, in order to succeed, and sometimes even to survive. Obviously this kind of thing cannot be prepared for, as it is by nature that which one fails to consider until too late. However, while the specific details cannot be identified beforehand, it is not impossible to have a general readiness and adaptability. This can be achieved by maintaining situational awareness and being open to all sources of information. Once you have been dedicated to a particular pursuit, there is no escaping the responsibility you have taken on. Therefore, do not let yourself be maneuvered by events into an untenable position, unless it is truly unavoidable. Once that position has been taken up (and recognized), do not allow anything to distract you.
As this is written for the solitary practitioner, bereft of the benefits of a structured program of initiation, I will try to offer some information that will help to decide how to carry out this process by oneself. The first activity I would recommend is to carry out a thorough analysis of oneís self and situation. Begin by writing down a concise history of your life, with emphasis on events that have particular emotional significance. If during the course of this, you find buried memories arising, make note of them but do not let them stop you from carrying out the work. When you are finished, you can go back and examine them in detail. Once you have an account of your life, write down whatever information seems important about your family, close friends and any enemies you may have. Do not omit anything that makes you uncomfortable, even if you would rather see some people in a good light and others in shadow. It is very important to be honest with yourself in life, and especially so in magick. Make a list of the things that are most significant to you, including your goals, dreams and desires. Do not get carried away with anything here, or get lost in daydream. Write down the important points, and include a few lines to say why each thing is important to you. Finally, list all of your fears and hang-ups, with as much detail as you can manage.
This study of yourself will provide a foundation for your work, as it will enable you to see clearly what your goals are, and thus what course of action is most appropriate. I recommend that you do this whether or not you have any interest in initiation, as it will be of aid in planning how you deploy your magical energies. The present use is to learn what is the driving purpose of your life. You can then devise an oath that dedicates you to the pursuit of this purpose. Of course, your beliefs may change as you get older, and it may be that you only really desire immediate gratification. Thatís fine by me, as long as you are being true to yourself. If you already know what your life is for (or believe that you do), an oath may be an unnecessary formality. I urge you not to take any such decision lightly.
As a number of the things I have mentioned are liable to occur without warning, it is good practice to cultivate a heightened sense of awareness. The simplest method of achieving this is to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. When you walk along the street, watch where you are going, and keep an eye on the people around you. Do not listen to a CD, instead listen to the noises of the world around you. Hear the breeze in the trees, but do not drift into daydream. When you enter a room, note the exits and the attitudes/postures of the people within. In conversation, watch the other personís face and body, learn how to read expressions. Keep this up for a while, and it will become habit for you to observe your surroundings and notice things that are out of place. I do not intend for you to cultivate a paranoiac mentality, as that would require you to prejudge everything that occurs. Instead, listen to your senses, be aware of your feelings and learn to see what is really happening around you.
If you have done a little work to develop your senses, after a time you may begin to have intuitive notions about people or situations. This will be very limited at first, but if you make use of it and learn to trust it, you will be rewarded. We have far more than the standard five senses, but it is rare for them to become conscious. However, with the correct attitude to the necessary work and a willingness to learn from mistakes, it is quite possible to extend the range of your sensory field and gain great benefits thereby. This is itself a kind of initiation, and for many people it would be far more useful than learning the passwords of an archaic branch of the Masons.
As ever, this is but a brief introduction to the subject, for I can do little more. Initiation is not something that happens once and is then forgotten, it is a process that occurs again and again. It builds in intensity and potential each time, and is rarely recognized for what it is. Even if you have no intention of carrying out an initiation of any kind, it is useful to be aware of the possibility that unexpected events may propel you into a situation that you are quite unprepared for. In such times, it is important to act as your feelings direct, to trust yourself and take the course of action that seems best. It is only in the aftermath that one can be truly certain what was correct, so as long as you do what appears to be the appropriate thing in the moment, you will be on the right track.
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