Saturday, September 28, 2013


Initiation means the beginning of the revelation of one's true self (Eliade, 1958). It includes the opening up of the inner life of the spirit and releasing the potentials and possibilities within the person.

The distinctions between the ways we view change and death become more important at the end of eras, at funerals, and at births. The attitudes of mourners have a crucial effect on a funeral, and the manner of the people at birth can help or harm the new life. Mid-wives once assisted the newborn into this world and helped the newly dead on to the 'other world'.

Willing or not we are all attendants at the funeral of the last era and the birth of the next. We are all mid wives placing the shroud on a body soon to disappear and anointing the next birth with our prayers, fears, denials, and hopes.

The radical dismantling of institutions, boundaries, beliefs, and ecosystems that characterizes the end of an era is an extended funeral that we can consciously attend or try to deny.

At some level we each know that huge shifts in nature and culture are affecting us daily. But, without some spiritual vision and ritual structure we lose the capacity to handle death and embrace life fully. Instead, we build walls of denial to hold off terror and confusion and try to cover our helplessness with displays of force and greed. Denial arises as a primary symptom because of the scope of changes already happening and as a defense agains the flood of losses and endings.

And the momentum of loss increases because a death unmourned becomes a lingering ghost that haunts the living until it receives its share of attention and tears.

Mircea Eliade speaks of initiation as a universal rite, an archetypal form that surfaces and influences life wherever events have the spirit of beginnings or the weight of an end.

As an elemental pattern or archetype, initiation is a 'whole'way' of seeing into the world, one that sees death as part of the fabric of life. On the ground of initiation, death is the opposite of birth, not the opposite of life. Life includes both, and the spirit of life regenerates in the land of death. Archaic rites of initiation show the basic pattern for genuine change. For any transformation to be meaningful it must be thorough, and to be thorough requires both the ache of loss and a spirit of restoration.

It is only in initiation that death is give a positive value. More than an empty tomb, death becomes also the womb of change. In dreams and dramas of inititation, death represents change for the entire psyche and life of a person. It means change inside and out, not a simple adaptation or switch in lifestyle.

Initiation includes death and rebirth, a radical altering of a person's mode of being; a shattering and shaking all the way to the ground of the soul.

T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland was a poem about initiation.

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