Skip to main content
Select Source:

Initiation

Initiation

The process of entry into a secret society, an occult group, or a mystical stage of religion. The idea of initiation was inherited by the Egyptians and Assyrians from Neolithic peoples who possessed secret organizations or "mysteries" analogous to those of the Medwiwin of the North American Indians or those of the Australian Blackfellows. Initiation was a stage in the various grades of the Egyptian priesthood and the mysteries of Eleusis and Bacchus. These processes probably consisted of tests of courage and fidelity (as with the ordeals of primitive peoples) and included such acts as sustaining a severe beating, drinking blood, real and imaginary; and so forth.

In the Popol Vuh, the saga of the Kiche Indians of Guatemala, there is a description of the initiation tests of two hero-gods on entrance to the native equivalent of Hades. Indeed, many of the religious mysteries typified the descent of man into hell and his return to earth, based on the corn mother legend of the resurrection of the wheat plant.

Initiation into the higher branches of mysticism, magic, and Theosophy is largely symbolic and is to be taken as implying a preparation for the higher life and the regeneration of the soul. Typical of such rites are the ceremonies for initiation and advancement of Freemasons.

The great religions instituted initiation rituals, such as the baptism and laying on of hands in Christianity, and the circumcision and bar mitzvah in Judaism.

The ordeal rituals of initiation into Freemasonry echo older ceremonies symbolizing the mysteries of birth, pain, death, and the life of the soul. Many trades also have traditional ordeal ceremonies for the initiation of young apprentices, similar to those instituted by college fraternities.

In esoteric traditions, both Eastern and Western, initiation refers to the entrance into various levels of purification of the individual through development at all levels of experience body, mind, emotions, and soulas discussed in various forms of magical and mystical traditions. Initiation can be used in a somewhat watered-down sense, and is adaptable to any new insight brought about by the ups and downs of living. However, it more properly is used to refer to those insights created by a planned system of inner development while the individual is involved in mastering a particular system of esoteric teachings.

Sources:

Allen, M. R. Male Cults and Secret Initiation in Melanesia. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1967.

Alli, Antero, et al. All Rites Reversed: Ritual Technology for Self-Initiation. Boulder, Colo.: Vigilantero Press, 1987.

Danielou, Alain. Yoga: The Method of Re-Integration. London: Christopher, 1969. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1956.

Duncan, Malcolm C. Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor. New York: McKay, 1976.

Eliade, Mircea. Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth & Rebirth. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1968.

Fortune, Dion. The Training and Work of an Initiate. 1930. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1972.

Hall, Manly P. Secret Teachings of All Ages. Hollywood, Calif.: Philosophical Research Society, 1962. Rev. ed. 1977.

Heard, Gerald. Training for the Life of the Spirit. Hankins, N.Y.: Strength Books, 1975. Distributed by Steiner Books.

Huxley, Francis. The Way of the Sacred. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974. Reprint, New York: Dell, 1976.

MacKenzie, Norman, ed. Secret Societies. London: Aldus Books, 1967.

Oliver, Rev. George. The History of Initiation, in Twelve Lectures; comprising a Detailed Account of the Rites & Ceremonies, Doctrines and Discipline, of all the Secret and Mysterious Institutions of the Ancient World. London: Richard Spencer, 1829. Rev. ed. 1841.

Sédir, Paul. Initiations. London: Regency Press, 1967.

Stewart, R. J. UnderWorld Initiation: A Journey Towards Psychic Transformation. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1985.

Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism. London: Methuen, 1911.

Young, Frank W. Initiation Ceremonies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Status Dramatization. Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Initiation." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Initiation." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/initiation

"Initiation." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/initiation

initiation

initiation, the transition and attendant ceremonies, such as ordeals and rites, involved in passing from one state or status to another, often from childhood to adulthood. It was among the most important social institutions of early humans. The ordeal measures the initiate's worthiness to enter the new status. Initiation may mean the cessation of contact with those who have not been initiated. Seclusion, mutilation, symbolic representation of death and resurrection, the display of sacred objects, special instruction, and restrictions on the initiate are frequent attributes of the ceremonies. Many early societies had puberty initiations. Their purpose was to induct the young person both into the full status of an adult and into the religion of the group.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"initiation." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"initiation." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/initiation

"initiation." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/initiation

Initiation

Initiation. The (usually ritual) transfer of a person into a new state, and thus common in religions—either to bring a person into a new religious community, or to make transfers of status within such communities. Examples are circumcision in Judaism, baptism and confirmation in Christianity, bayʿat (‘pact’) when a Sūfī novice joins an order, upanayana among twice-born Hindus, abhiṣeka in Buddhism, dbang.bskur in Tibet (see ABHIṢEKA), dīkṣa in all Indian religions, but of especial importance among Jains, khaṇḍe-dī-pāhul among Sikhs.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Initiation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Initiation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/initiation

"Initiation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/initiation

initiation

initiation, initiation rites Rituals associated with the passage from childhood to adulthood, from one age-set to another, or the entry into membership of secret societies. Aspects of initiation influenced van Gennep's study of rites of passage. Rituals for the change of status from childhood to adulthood often involve physical change such as circumcision. In other ways the initiate has to undergo pain and humiliation. Rites associated with girls and women often affirm male control of reproductive powers.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"initiation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"initiation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/initiation

"initiation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/initiation