The initiatory experience has been a precise technique for survival and growth among people for thousands of years. Its application is as varied as the cultures and times that produce it. Though there is a marked difference between the ritual circumcision and ritual near-death by drowning, the intent is the same.
Any initiation under the appropriate circumstances stimulates a shift in paradigm or world view and leaves the candidate forever marked in body and/or mind and/or spirit with a teaching that is vital to personal and collective growth.
We can enhance our understanding and our practice of initiation by investigating the time-honored techniques which create it. First, there is the technique of placing the candidate in a state of mental receptivity to new information. This may be acquired through physically passive or physically active conditions. Examples might include meditation, endurance activities, fear tactics, drugs or ascetic practices.
The inherent technique is to "Quit the Material and seek the Spiritual." It is to arrest the usual thoughts of the candidate, i.e. the mundane "hunting and gathering," to allow for a new program to be implanted. Physiologically, the rate of the brain activity is slowed so that names and images may be placed directly into the unconscious. Properly applied, the initiation releases the left and right brain responsibilities and allows new symbology to enter into the diencephalon or mid-brain, the center for involuntary responses and the autonomic nervous system.
Next comes the introduction of the new information to the candidate. Depending on the culture and type of initiation being conducted, the teachings will vary ad infinitum. A rain forest rite of manhood may proceed with at test of endurance of pain. The teaching is then programmed in the unconscious, "I shall endure to the end."
The teenage neophyte of central Africa may be told a compelling story of their ancestors and at a crucial moment have a skull of the "first man" thrust into their hands. The teaching here would be, "I know my genesis very tangibly, and I know what I shall be when I die." To be admonished to, "Quit the night and seek the day" at ritual climax can mark a candidate with the need to "awaken" and shed "Light" on heretofore unrecognized life issues.
Always remember, the implantation is a precise technique and should be treated as such. Random programming of the unconscious leads away from survival and growth. Precise programming requires study and even experience of the initiation itself on some level. Having a tooth knocked out, as among natives of Australia, or tattooing or scarring gives a lasting outward reminder of the lessons learned. These are the reinforcers and labels of the experience. They represent the final stage of initiation. Assimilation and analysis cap off the introduction of new information to the psyche.
Reactivation of the brain begins in the right hemisphere. Here the experience is integrated with symbolic awareness. This is the "Aha!" moment that occurs immediately after receiving the teaching, but prior to cognitive labeling and speech. Leading into good old-fashioned left brain analysis, the experience is labeled. The new information is repeated over and over again with the label for assimilation and analysis may actually take years of unconscious and/or conscious processing.
Repetition of procedure, enhancement, and reinforcers assist this process. Our predecessors do not leave us wanting here, either. Repetition of procedure may be seen among modern Catholics who celebrate their Mass daily and weekly. Enhancement is the use of subtle variation within the repetition to keep the paradigm from solidifying before assimilation is complete.
The myriad celebrations of seasons provide a constant source of variation in ritual. Costume apparel may change, different aspects of the rite may be focused upon via candles in number and color, different types of music played, etc.
Reinforcers are constant reminders of initiation and can play a role certainly in repetition. Without resorting to physical scarring, some western European Christian sects are fond of particular clothing on a consistent basis to reaffirm their experiences. The use of reinforcers can bear directly or indirectly on the initiation. the "daily dozen" of magic, L.B.R.P., Four-fold Breath, and Tarot meditations, while having inherent values of their own, are reinforcers that help the individual continue to identify with the magical personality that emerges in initiation.
This outline of initiatory procedure will, hopefully, find its way into
your philosophic armory. Use it to help break down the rituals you use
and witness. Notice where the induction takes place, where the teaching
and where and how assimilation and analysis is performed. By honoring
the techniques of our initiators and predecessors, their general and specific
practices, we may continue to survive, teach and grow. We may continue
to initiate those who inherit the world from us.