Most of us come across the word initiation in books or online and it often raises the question what exactly might be concealed by that.
‘Initio’ as a Latin verb refers to the act of guiding someone into the mysteries or – in a more mundane relation – to register oneself with a list of citizens. Used as an adverb it means ‘from the beginning’.
In both contexts if used as a verb it refers to starting something new. Some people interested in the occult assume that their path will be perfectly outlined for them if they get initiated into a group. These assumptions are erroneous. No organization is capable of dictating a spiritual path. The work that is required will also not be easier or less if you work in a group. There are however some indisputable advantages of working with others, for example the incredible sensation during ritual workings when it comes to raising energy. It can be a real high without any awareness expanding substances to feel the energy of like 50 people around you focusing on the same things at the same time. This high might actually last hours after the working has finished. So I’m not advocating against group workings at all.
Initiation into a group or order however is something one should think about for a while because it doesn’t only mean the dedication to work with a certain group of people but also to get into touch and connect oneself with the egregore of that specific group. Egregores can be pictured as entities that come to existence by the focused mind of people working together. In case of egregores of magical organizations they feed off the devotional and magical practice and sometimes are even capable to gain a life of their own (sometimes causing issues). By the way, some occultists do believe that the different gods are nothing but egregores having gained substance and influence by the fact of worship and communion. This is a question of perspective I guess.
One important thing is not to forget that even people who are not part of a specific group anymore can still provide some energy into the thought form of the egregore. This also applies to oneself in case of breaking the ties with a group. So it’s probably a good idea to choose wisely who you connect with and after a ‘break up’ make sure that your boundaries are firm enough. Basically as with all relationship issues.
Anyway, initiation takes place on different planes. One can be initiated by a group, by individual teachers or by unseen entities. It is also a false assumption – at least in my opinion – that we only get one major initiation in our magical careers. Personally I remember quite a few experiences I’d dare to call initiation and most of them occurred on the astral planes by energies I encountered in trance states, dreams or visions.
There are several authors who advocate self-initiation into a current. I think this is possible if you’re really dedicated, maybe even ‘called’ by it. I do think also that it is easier to use the outer dressing and make first contact with a current on a basic level than dive deeply into a connection with it. The difference for me is best explained that in the second situation you actually plug yourself into the socket where the energy comes from (connection with the ‘inner order’) whereas in the first you work with the symbols, know the mantras and rituals but the energy of the current is pretty low because you’re still focused on the outer part of it. To actually reach the second level discipline, focus and time are needed.
Self-initiation into different currents shouldn’t be taken lightly either. You do make contact with a group and its egregore on a different level than a material one. And it shouldn’t be ever about collecting badges or grades.
And how do I know if an initiation worked? Sometimes the effects unfold themselves almost immediately by causing major changes in your life on a material, emotional or mental level. Sometimes though they need years for manifestation. Again this is why keeping a diary helps, so you can write down the things that might have been caused by intense experiences and later revisit and validate them. But the fact that an initiation has occurred (regardless of its effects) you’ll know beyond doubt.