For centuries, the ancient Western Mysteries have been transmitted through rituals called "initiations." Everyone can learn from books how to perform rituals, visualization, and self-empowerment, but nobody can seriously initiate himself. To do so, you need one or more persons who will perform a special ritual for you. We know the existence of such ceremonies of initiations from a very early period, 1700 BCE if we consider the Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece. Later, other closed groups such as the Pythagorean, Neoplatonists, Hermetists, and Theurgists practiced initiatic secret rituals. My goal is not here to write an historical study, but it is worth noting that such initiatic societies have existed for a very long time, and are still present today in the world.
Anyone interested in Western Traditions has heard something about initiatic Orders, but they don't speak much about what they are and what goals they have. In my book, Rediscover the Magick of Gods and Goddesses, I follow the Hermetic and Theurgic Traditions that eventually gave birth to the Ogdoadic Tradition, today known as Aurum Solis. This international organization provides initiations and serious magical training. A large part of the book is devoted to the practice of original rituals and exercises. The practice is very important when we really want to experiment with the elements provided in the book. However, sometimes you can be eager to use a book as an occasion to go further in your spiritual journey. Then knowing about the definition and goals of these ancient initiatic Orders can become essential.
To begin with a simple definition, an initiation is a ceremony that allows a candidate to have an inner experience of "sacred Mysteries." These Mysteries can be related to Divinities or laws of the universe. They are composed of rituals, which can be either symbolic or theurgic, which gives us two different categories of initiations.
The first one is using symbols (sounds, lights, perfumes, sacred words, etc.) to trigger a psychological reaction in the candidate. If the ceremony is authentic and well performed, the impact can be real and affect the deepest level of consciousness. Freemasonry is a good example of a traditional organization using such symbolic initiations.
In the second category, the initiatic rituals used are considered magick or theurgic. Having received a proper training, the initiators should be able to use the symbols on two levels: physical and spiritual. Acting simultaneously on the visible and invisible planes, the initiator acts deliberately on the unconscious of the candidate to awaken his deepest level of consciousness. Eventually, his soul is touched by this magical action.
It is interesting to note that the symbolic ritual does not necessarily imply the theurgic level unless the initiators were trained in it. However, a theurgic initiation necessarily implies the use of different symbols and magical tools.
Certainly, the idea of being part of a very old tradition through its initiations can be attractive and exciting, but it is worth knowing the goal of all this! If the only purpose of an initiatic Order were the ceremony itself, then it wouldn't stay alive for so long in the history of humanity.
There are several goals in such Orders, but let's talk here about the most important.
The first is to help you to awaken your unused, undeveloped inner abilities. Theurgic initiations followed by good training are able to induce a real transformation in what you can do.
The second goal is to teach you a safe and effective method to rise to the Divine. This is something essential in an initiatic tradition. It is clear that everyone can learn alone, read multiple books, auto-experiment, etc. So we could say that there is no need to receive an initiation or work in an initiatic Order. That is true to some degree—anyone can become a self-taught man. However, not everyone has the ability, the strength, and the desire to achieve anything alone. Many feel that it is easier and faster to enroll in a serious group. We can learn more efficiently, avoid mistakes, and benefit from the experience of those who have preceded us. This is very helpful, but possible only if we are persistent in our will to progress. It is impossible to obtain a real result if we change our school every quarter or every month. In order to obtain good results, we have to follow the lessons and advice of our teachers consistently.
Another goal of an initiatic Order is to teach you what you will find after your death. A full chapter of Rediscover the Magick of Gods and Goddesses addresses this question, essential in all religions. However, here an initiatic Tradition is not talking about faith, but about direct experience. This is why this question is extremely important.
Every one of us will die, and nobody knows when. It may be in a few minutes or in many years. We can consider that as a major initiation, and we don't want to cross this gate without being well-prepared. One goal of a Theurgic Order and the initiations they perform, well represented by the Aurum Solis for example, is to prepare you for this final moment. The goal is to teach you how to stay aware of what happens when you leave this physical life. This is not something you can learn theoretically, but you must follow a precise training. If you succeed, you will be able to keep your memory intact and to choose your next life. If not, you will be dragged down randomly, losing what you have learned. As you can see, being trained for this is paramount! It is necessary to acquire both theoretical and practical trainings. This is what an authentic theurgic initiatic Order gives you and this is why you must choose one carefully.
As many do in choosing a yoga class, a serious initiatic Order can be recognized through a few essential criteria:
- In the Western Tradition, such organization is the result of a clear and continuous lineage. It cannot be created from scratch as the result of an egocentric will. A spiritual school like that is the result of a long line of Masters. This awareness of its heritage leads to a duty in regard to these Masters, and thence to a true humility.
- Another important criterion is not to exalt the ego, which is a genuine obstacle in all spiritual life. Consequently, the Masters and initiators must be serious in their work. They must be able to apply to themselves the rules they preach to others. This is not to say that initiators and masters are perfect, not even the Eastern gurus. Everyone is human. However, they must maintain high moral standards as a human ideal. The seriousness is manifested through honesty and humility, which allows us to admit there are hundreds and hundreds of things we do not know and that we must learn. We must have the humility to recognize that the Masters who preceded us in antiquity had a vast culture. Whoever we are, we are far from reaching this ideal. Whether masters or students, we should fight our ego to achieve true humility and acquire a clear vision of who we really are.
- It is also important that the training in an initiatic Order be coherent and progressive. If you are to achieve your goals at the level just mentioned, your training must be efficient. You must be trained in the different levels of magick, escorted in your journey by someone who is experienced. Through initiations, rituals, and theurgy, you will rise on the planes to familiarize yourself with these levels.
If an initiatic Order is focused on these goals and on maintaining a high moral standard, then it didn’t spend its time in divisions, fights, oppositions, etc. These are all manifestations of the Ego and the absence of duty.
When you are interested in learning all these techniques and receiving this impulse, it is good at some point to question yourself: Can I continue alone, or is it better to read this manual and undergo a full training and transformation? Life is a beautiful and divine tapestry woven by the Goddesses of Fate. Opening a book, reading an article, and meeting someone are part of a higher plan. We all have an inner voice that generally speaks clearly. The only thing we have to do is listen; but the Western tradition teaches us to stay in control with the help of our critical mind and not just fantasize.
High Magick, also called "theurgy," is a powerful tool in this magical and spiritual journey. It is not a dogma; rather, is it the manifestation of your love of the divine and the world. Theurgy teaches you how to become aware of who you are and your relation to this world. We are here to experience this world and learn from it. Pleasure will be a good guide. The practice of Theurgy will allow you to seek beauty and harmony. At this point, you will feel the power of simplicity in the rituals. You will feel that your desire to read, to know more about what is hidden, was not superficial. It was the manifestation of an ancient memory, the reminiscence of what you lived before being incarnated in this world. According the Masters of the gold chain, this is the true manifestation of someone who is ready to accomplish the first steps on the way of the initiation. Then you will recognize others like yourself, and you will be able to call them sisters and brothers, regardless of their color, sex, or religion.
We are all part of a long journey that begins by opening a book and listening to the mysterious call which brings us here. We will open our heart to the influence of the stars, begin to learn how to breathe, and use magical tools. This is what is called "High Magick."