2 of 9 – What are Spiritual Initiations?
By Marlyse Carroll
(Author of ‘Am I Going Mad? The Unsettling Phenomena of Spiritual Evolution’ – www.amigoingmad.com.au)
In our previous article on spiritual evolution, we introduced Dr Carl Jung and the two major paradigms by which he lived and worked. We also explored his model of personal growth, ‘The four archetypal stages of life’.
In this article, you’ll find out what spiritual initiations are, and how to trigger them in more and more blissful ways.
Initiations are tipping points that mark a transition from an old to a new level of attainment. They can take place in various ways: physically, socially, symbolically and/or spiritually. They can involve other people or not. Some initiations can be witnessed externally and others remain highly personal.
Here are a few examples of initiations, ranging from gross to subtle:
- Brutal rituals of bastardisation linked to some military and police organisations
- Sexual practices linked to specific religious or cultural traditions
- Entry rituals into secret societies
- Traditional shamanic rites of passage
- Familial and/or religious ceremonies such as baptisms, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, weddings and funerals
- Energetic transmission of knowledge or wisdom from a master to a student, which is known as shaktipat
- Inner experiences of a spiritual nature that mark a new stage of growth
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, we’ll focus here on the more subtle initiations, the spiritual ones. Those life-changing inner events that lead to higher levels of consciousness.
A spiritual initiation happens when we’re ready to take the next evolutionary step. It’s like a landmark or a tipping point on our life’s journey. In hindsight, it’s usually remembered as a light-bulb moment in which we changed our thinking, and therefore our life. Because whenever we change our thinking, our potential either expands or contracts.
With spiritual initiations, our potential expands. Therefore our actions take us on a new, more affirming life path and our destiny changes accordingly.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that spiritual initiations are closely linked to our thoughts and perceptions. That’s why they’re often triggered by dramas – in other words distressing events – until we reach a higher level of evolution. At that stage, blissful inner experiences replace external dramas as a push for growth.
will call it fate.”
Carl G. Jung
Please take note of the above quotation. Jung makes a very important point here!
So let’s dig deeper into the most commonly experienced triggers to personal growth, the painful ones.
Something hurtful happens. We feel as if we have been pushed off our perch, or as if someone has pulled the rug out from under us . We hear bad news. We are faced with a highly stressful situation and may blame others for our discomfort. Or, as Jung said, we call it fate. Examples could be the bitter ending of a relationship, a life-threatening illness or an unexpected redundancy.
We would never consciously create such difficult circumstances…… or would we? Unless of course we’re into self-sabotage.
A different perspective on self-sabotage
But what if self-sabotage was a deeply unconscious mechanism of growth? What if pain was a gift from the soul? What if we co-created ‘perfect’ circumstances (‘fate’) to stretch our inner resources over and over again?
Just like we go to gym to strengthen our muscles, could it be that we create dramas to strengthen our emotional and spiritual intelligence?
I believe so. Take a look at the following diagram.
This diagram illustrates how thoughts and perceptions lead to the very circumstances that reinforce our perceptions. So it’s very easy to keep going round and round, forever repeating patterns linked to fixed attitudes.
Yet every thought, every action, every circumstance has the potential to shake our perception of reality. Things can change dramatically from one second to the next.
Think of your own life. And imagine that one day something unexpected happens to you. Once more, Lady Fate knocks on your door, bringing you something you don’t like.
You can now react in one of two ways. Either you feel like a powerless victim, stay in your usual, limited thinking loop and keep walking around in circles. Which guarantees you’ll meet her again and again and again.
Or the shock is big enough to wake you up. Something goes ‘click’ in your consciousness and you take a new path. You now have access to more evolved thoughts, perceptions, attitudes and actions. Which in turn will change your life circumstances.
This inner shift can be subtle. Yet it is as powerful as tectonic plates shifting underground on our planet, moving oceans and mountains.
Or to use another metaphore, it’s as if an inner light had been turned on. It might be dim at first. Yet if nurtured it will keep increasing in intensity.
The light has been turned on
Maybe you take full responsibility for what you have created. You might still think it was just fate, but you decide to beat the odds. To heal that cancer. To do whatever it takes to get out of a terrible financial situation. To find love again.
Or maybe you shift from living in the Warrior’s archetype of ‘what can I get?’ to the more noble quest of ‘How can I be of service?’
Instead of focusing on problems, your mind works on solutions. You soon find more clarity and inner strength, more support and opportunities than you ever knew existed in and around you.
You now have a broader and richer perspective of life, which takes you on a broader and richer life path. A new path that honours who you have become.
That shift is a spiritual initiation.
In article 8, we’ll explore Complexity Science. From that perspective, you could say that your psyche has ‘re-ordered’ itself at a higher level of consciousness after experiencing a time of perturbation.
What happens after a spiritual initiation?
Now that you’ve had a powerful spiritual initiation, is the journey over? Are you going to live happily forever after? Who knows. ultimately it’s up to you.
After all, as Jung said it so wisely, you’re the one creating your own fate, whether you acknowledge it or not.
So chances are you’ll give yourself more opportunities to grow along the way. You might even re-test old boundaries a couple of times just to strengthen your gains. Eventually your new perspective will hold until you’re ready to push yourself forwards and upwards again. At which time temporary perturbations could resume.
Or you’ll live in grace.
Living in Grace
Living in grace means that growth occurs through waves of blissful experiences rather than as a result of hard knocks. This scenario is more likely to happen once you’ve reached the two higher stages of consciousness explored in our last article.
Let me mention here that some psychedelic drugs and medicinal plants can also trigger powerful and valuable spiritual initiations.
In Am I Going Mad? we explore the benefits and pitfalls of substance-induced awakenings. You can also check a possible danger in the following article on Kundalini.
So for now, let’s jump straight to the beautiful spiritual initiations that take place naturally once we’re more aware. At that stage, we no longer need ‘fate’ to help us wake up. So dramas become a thing of the past.
Blissful initiations can be experienced as numinous lucid dreams or visions. In this case, Beings of Light might interact with us at a level of truth and love never encountered before. Or we reach profound insights in other ways. We might even have a direct experience of cosmic magnitude, such as an enlightenment experience.
These timeless moments can happen spontaneously, in meditation, or through sensory stimuli such as breathwork, chanting, trance dancing and the like. They can also be triggered externally, for instance by shaktipat or healing circles.
Here too, most individuals who have had such experiences know that something meaningful shifted in their consciousness. But they might not realise that the change still needs to be integrated in order to become permanent.
Various metaphors are used to describe such a shift, i.e. an awakening, a reconnection, a cosmic download, a spiritual rewiring, receiving Grace.
We’ll cover such spiritual experiences in more detail in our next articles.
Enough said that the journey isn’t always easy, both before and after powerful initiations. And that the better prepared we are, the smoother the path becomes.
Which is why I recommend you read books like Am I Going Mad to help you speed up your own evolutionary process whilst enjoying the journey.
The Journey continues
One way or another, once an initiation is integrated, our inner life becomes peaceful again. So we can mentally settle at that new level and stay there for several years, enjoying a very pleasant emotional state. We feel more loving and act accordingly, because we have a higher perspective on what happens within as well as around us.
From then on, the more smoothly we evolve, the more initiations we experience in a lifetime.
And by working on our personality, we have a better chance to keep growing without huge upheavals. This is best done step by step, one thought, one feeling, one word, and one action at a time!
In transpersonal psychology, this conscious inner work is called ‘spiritual transmutation’, which we cover in article 9.
Before that, let’s explore in more detail what can happen along the way, starting with Kundalini phenomena.
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