Recently, there has been a great deal of blog-flutter concerning whether astral initiations into magickal groups are valid (see, for example, here, here, and here). I’d like to share my ideas as this topic has clearly struck a collective nerve.
What is an initiation? According to the free, online Llewellyn Encyclopedia, here is the definition of initiation:
A ritual or event that indicates a spiritual and/or psychological change and movement to a new period in life or a new awareness. Traditionally, the candidate for initiation would symbolically die and be reborn into this new way of being. In some traditions, being initiated is supposed to confer various spiritual powers.
In magical orders, initiation also provides entry into the private organization. According to occultist Dion Fortune, there are two basic types of initiation, physical and non-physical. It is hoped that they either occur together or that the physical initiation triggers the non-physical one, however a non-physical initiation can occur at any time and at any place.
So here are the qualities of an initiation:
- It’s a ritual or event
- It indicates a spiritual and/or psychological change
- It marks a new period
- Symbolically, it implies a death and rebirth
- Supposedly may confer spiritual powers (magickal abilities)
- Provides entry into specific group(s)
- Hopefully, a physical initiation triggers a non-physical (astral) initiation
- A non-physical initiation may occur at any time or place.
There are also symbolic speeches by the ritual participants, symbolic actions made by the participants, and various other qualities. This information clearly shows there is a difference between a physical and non-physical (astral) initiation. But what is this astral initiation that is causing so much blog blather? One of the major problems with discussing astral initiations and their validity is that there are two types of initiations that are called “astral initiations,” even though they’re very different. Most people do not identify this difference and as a result, although they may be commenting on one type of astral initiation, it is possible to confuse it for a comment on the other.
Astral Initiation Type One:
The Higher Planes Initiation
This AI-1 version is the type of initiation that Dion Fortune means when talking about a “non-physical” initiation. This is the spiritual initiation which alters your mind, spirit, and even body. It is the true, inner initiation. It goes beyond merely granting you admission to some group or order. It is the spark that links you to the group’s egregore and to any deities or spirits that guide the group.
This type of initiation can occur at any time and at any place. It may be triggered by a physical initiation or the AI-2 initiation described below. Many people consider the AI-1 initiation the true initiation, and without it, any other initiation is meaningless.
It is hoped that a physical initiation will trigger an AI-1 initiation, and if performed well, it can really do that. The appearance of the initiatory officers and their abilities to work with magickal energies, the appearance of the space where the initiation is held, the sounds of speeches, any scents or tastes, and often being combined with a trance state cause by not knowing what will happen, can trigger the AI-1.
Astral Initiation Type Two:
Initiation at a Distance
The AI-2 type of initiation is simply an initiation performed from a distance. In this ritual, the initiating officers perform some sort of rite (either physically in one location or united in spirit on the astral plane) while the candidate for initiation also does certain things while on his or her own and usually at a distant location. There is frequently some sort of time coordination. It is the hope that an AI-2 ritual will trigger an AI-1 experience.
There are obvious challenges to the success of a physical initiation ritual and the success of an AI-2 initiation ritual. The physical initiation ritual can be ineffective when participants aren’t prepared and either are unable to work with the magickal energies or cannot deliver their speeches in a way that affects the candidate for initiation. If the accoutrements are unattractive and take attention away from the ritual instead of instilling a sense of awe and amazement the results may not be beneficial. And then there is the problem of finding a group that will effectively initiate you and any travel you have to do to get to them.
Even with all these issues, the problems associated with AI-2 are even more daunting. The person being initiated not only can’t tell if the participants are doing their jobs effectively, he or she has no way of knowing if they’re doing the initiation at all! For all the candidate knows, the officers may be sitting at home, drinking beer, eating chips, and watching Star Trek reruns. And at the same time, even if the ritual officers are doing a fantastic job they won’t know how well the candidate is doing. In fact, the candidate may ignoring the process and simply be at home, reading a book, or out at a club dancing to a DJ playing The Weather Girls singing “It’s Raining Men.”
When someone says that an Astral Initiation is the one that really counts, they are talking about type AI-1. But some people who are officers in groups or initiates of groups that primarily perform AI-2 initiations falsely want you to believe that saying an Astral Initiation is the one that counts refers to what they are doing. It does not.
Hierarchy of Initiatory Success
In my experience, here is a listing of the spiritual success at achieving an AI-1 experience from different types of initiations:
Initiation Type Success Level
Physical (well done):………………………High
Physical (poorly done):…………………..Medium–High
AI-2 (well done):…………………………….Low–Medium-Low
AI-2 (poorly done):…………………………Ineffective–Low
How can an AI-2 initiation that is poorly done, or even not performed by the supposed initiators, have even a low level of success? Because of the thoughts, hopes, wishes, drives, desires, and passion of the person supposedly initiated. If a person really wants it, that Higher Planes AI-1 initiation can occur at any time and any place. Just believing you are being initiated, even if the initiators are doing nothing, might result in an AI-1 experience.
The AI-2 experience will make you a member of a physical group, but other than that, the AI-2 is unlikely to result in an AI-1 initiation. It can happen, but it’s rare. In fact it’s supposed effectiveness may be nothing more than the candidate’s hopes and fantasy.
In my opinion the most effective means of achieving that transcendent AI-1 initiation is to experience a well-executed physical initiation. That is, where you go to some site and people do ritual actions and speeches. Even if it doesn’t immediately trigger an AI-1 initiation, a well-executed physical initiation will have a psychological effect on you and that may, in the future, trigger the AI-1.
I know, some people reading this will say, “But I can’t find a group” or “I can’t afford the travel, the costs, the time off from work, etc.” These are all good, legitimate reasons for choosing the easier, AI-2 type of initiation. I would like to point out, however, that there is another word that means “reasons.” It’s “excuses.”
You can come up with all the reasons/excuses you want. But let me ask you this: If I were to say to you, “If you will travel across the country and come to my home, I’ll give you ten million dollars. It will change your life forever,” would you be willing to figure at a way to earn or borrow some extra money and get some time off in order to reach my house? I would say 999 out of 1,000 people would absolutely do this. Suddenly, those reasons/excuses given in the previous paragraph just vanish—if you really want the experience that will change your life.
Similarly, you are more likely to receive a life-altering AI-1 experience by taking part in a physical initiation. I would say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?
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I’m going to be interviewed by Dorian Wallace on his Blog Talk Radio program,
Desperate House Witches.