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The notion of “initiations” came through the teachings of the Theosophical Society and Alice Bailey’s (which were supposedly channelled from a Tibetan master called Djwhal Khul). The initiations represent the spiritual progressions in a persons life. The first three initiations are said to take place on astral planes during sleep – so we aren’t consciously aware that they are happening.
A summary of the initiations from the Theosophical Society is given below – note how the first four correspond with mastery of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies. The higher initiations get a bit esoteric.
- Initiation zero – the probationary path (the vast majority of humanity is said to be in this state). Mild interest in spiritual matters.
- First initiation – birth to spiritual path; gains control over the physical body with right living and right thinking. This is what Christians call “Salvation“.
- Second initiation – baptism; gains control over the astral body and the person has overcome delusions of self, doubt, uncertainty and superstition. Passing through this initiation is known as the Dark Night of the Soul. Second degree initiates are known as Sakadagamin in Buddhism and Kutichaka in Hinduism.
- Third initiation – transfiguration; the person is said to develop clairvoyance and clairaudience and mastery of the mental body. Buddhists call a person passing third initiation an Anagamin (one who does not return), or a Hamsa (swan) in Hinduism.
- Fourth initiation – crucifixion; a perfected being, Arhat (Buddhism) or Paramahansa (Hinduism – supreme swan). The crucifixion represents giving up everything, especially the individual ego. It isn’t necessary to get nailed to a cross like Jesus of Nazareth!.
- Fifth initiation – resurrection; the Ascended Masters. Beings at this level may not have physical bodies. Djwhal Khul (Alice Bailey’s teacher) was said to be a fifth level initiate. These people are known as an Adept, Asekha or Jivanmukta.
- Sixth initiation – Ascension or masterhood; Chohans, Lords of the Seven Rays.
- Seventh initiation – Bodhisattva, avatar, Christhood; world teachers at the level of Mohachohan. Maitreya (the future return of Buddha / Christ / Krishna) is at this level.
- Eighth initiation – Buddahood; level of the Buddha.
- Ninth initiation – Godhood; level of Sanat Kumar.
- Tenth initiation – planetary logos.
If you want to investigate these initiations in more detail I suggest you source some of Dr Joshua David Stone’s books, or the I AM University, or writings of Benjamin Creme and his prophesy’s about the return of Maitreya.
Personally, I find some of these descriptions of the galactic hierarchies of masters beyond the fourth initiation rather esoteric and hard to verify in personal experience. The idea of initiations corresponding to mastery of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies (with progressively higher levels of spiritual mastery) corresponds with the traditional yoga paths of Kama (physical), Bhakti (emotional) and Jnana (mental) yoga, but if, as most people are today, we are following a Raja Yoga or Integral Yoga path the notion of sequentially mastering each body isn’t so useful. Raja Yoga and Patanjali’s sutras are based on people working on all bodies at once and I have been emphasising that improving the effectiveness of our executive brain functions is where we will start seeing progress. I don’t believe that the path is a nice linear set of initiatory steps as the Theosphical teachings suggest.
Initiations and vMemes
It is also useful to review initiations in the context of people passing through the levels in Clare W Graves vMeme model. The diagram is shown again below as a reminder, along with the amount of time persons in each vMeme would typically be spending in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual activities.
In this context of moving from one vMeme to another, initiations are a real event and they can be traumatic or a crisis in one’s life. Consider a person moving from level 4 (Absolutist) or level 5 (Individualist) or from level 5 to level 6 (Humanist). This would be an uncommon event, and to those around them they would appear to be going through a life crisis. Take the case of a person at level 5. They would be surrounded by family and friends with lives centred on having successful careers and making money. Now they begin to be attracted to alternative communities of greenies and activists, most likely with significant percentages of gay or transgender members, outdoor loving, conservationists; people who totally reject big business and capitalism. What a change to their lives! If their partner isn’t also going through such a transformation, these changes to one partner will surely result in marriage break-up (the majority of marriages begin with both partners having the same vMeme), cause a change in career and possibly result in moving house or changing country.
It isn’t clear what triggers such changes in a person’s life. It could be an external event such as the death of a close friend or relative, a near-death experience, or boredom with ones current state coupled with a strong motivation to find something better. Or it could be natural result of evolution within their own brain, or soul.
I’m not aware of any spiritual teaching or training that specifically targets transitioning people from one vMeme level to another. Initially, any such change may feel like “enlightenment” to the individual as they move in to a whole new realm of ideas and a greater world-view. They may have emerged from feeling oppressed to a new sense of freedom. This isn’t enlightenment, and even moving from levels 7 to 8, or perhaps from level 8 to whatever is beyond, is not necessarily enlightenment either though it is likely to be a significant step in the right direction.
If you are feeling inspired to undertake your own initiation and move to the “next level“, be aware that they are not usually fun. They are traumatic life events. Let them come about in their own time as a result of your own spiritual practices, and if you find yourself in the midst of one (which technically could be called a spiritually transformative experience or STE) seek help from appropriately qualified people (eg Buddhist monks) who are most likely to be outside your previous circle of friends.