Life, the great initiator


“If man chooses to pass through a second, spiritual birth it takes place through initiation. The esoteric initiation is based on the thought that there exist several layers of reality that the adept can explore and penetrate. This occurs through initiation.”  – Thomas Karlsson from “Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic magic”


While reading Ipsissimus by E.A Koetting, a book about initiation in a spiritual context, I could see a lot of similarities with my own views on the link between the physical and the spiritual. The initiations we go through in life are closely related to the spiritual understanding we gain on our path. The name of the book is taken from Aleister Crowley’s Magic in Theory and Practice where he states: “Ipsissimus… is beyond all this and beyond all comprehension.” And in his book E.A Koetting goes on to explain the experiences he went through to gain the spiritual understanding he has today.

I believe we all get initiated regularly. It is usually followed by the realisation that we learnt some valuable lessons. I still remember my first day in high school, the day I was forced by a big guy to measure a girl’s leg with a tiny ruler. Afterwards, I was given a tap on the back and a nod of approval. It was a humiliating experience but acceptable to everyone at the time because it was part of the common initiation practices. Back then, thinking about experiences like that and other similar ones made me negative about initiation.

I turned out to be some sort of a rebel that tried to go against anything that seemed traditional. I saw initiation and similar practices as a form of indoctrination that had the aim of destroying your individuality. Life had to be about freedom, free choice and personalised decision making. Everything turned out to be different. Even when I pitched up for my Drama studies at the University of Pretoria I was being initiated by a guy half my size wearing a feather boa screaming high pitched orders at me.

I feel our need for initiation and our need for suffering are related and sometimes we get a bit confused. Take the martyr for example, the person who chooses to suffer for a cause, very often a spiritual cause. I am against suffering for the sake of being spiritual because I see it as a form of masochistic self-martyrdom. Lots of people suffer by choice, saying to themselves in their heads: “I have to suffer because I want to escape from this karmic cycle I’m in.” This type of suffering seems egotistical to me.

Sometimes suffering happens when you do not ask for it, and it creeps up on you like a monster from some bad horror movie. During the suffering process you feel like your life is ending and you think of all the ways to escape form the nightmare, but afterwards one usually feels that some sort of lesson was learnt. This is the type of suffering that teaches us things. The type of suffering that arrives because of choice and the type that arrives to surprise you, illustrates the difference between egotistical suffering and initiation.

When I think of all the initiation experiences I went through and the examples of initiation that I heard of and read about, some form of suffering is involved. The suffering usually comes as a surprise and it is being dished out by someone or something. The second year after I finished school I went for a very interesting weekend to a place called Rustlers Valley, situated in the mountains of the Eastern Free State on the border with Lesotho. Back then I was a party animal, everything I did in life was aimed towards having fun. On the way there we picked up a hiker, a friendly arty guy with long hair and lots of piercings. He told us about something he had in his pocket that would give me the time of my life.“Rustlers would be dull without it,” he said smiling mischievously. My girlfriend at the time didn’t like the idea, but she knew that there was no way of stopping me having a party. Not long after we arrived, just as we finished setting up camp, the guy presented me with the prize. I ate it without thinking twice;still thinking that a good time awaited me.

Well, it was an experience that gave new meaning to the concept of suffering. My benefactor looked disappointed seeing me so “out of it” and disappeared for the rest of the time. There I was, next to my worried girlfriend hearing how trees were talking to me, hearing people’s thoughts and seeing how spirits invaded people uninvited all the time influencing their behavior and the sort. The worst thing about it was that I had no control over it. I was a spectator watching a nightmare unfolding in front of my eyes.

It took me nearly two full days to recover from the experience after which I was sitting with some emotional baggage. My girl left me because of the whole episode, and I had to deal with the things that I saw on my own. I had to talk to someone but I had the idea that no one would have been able to help me, I was on my own. It was difficult working through the experience and also letting go of the baggage that seemed to weigh heavy on me at the time. Now, when I look back Irealise I learnt a lot about myself and others and a lot about the spiritual world. I know things that I only know because I had that experience. I see the experience as one of the initiations that life made me go through to grow and to make me who I am.

I understand now that initiation is not a bad thing. We have to conquer obstacles to move forward and we have to learn from the hard experiences in our lives. Life is the great initiator and we are the initiates. We can achieve the ability to soar like an eagle, to fly higher than what we think is humanly possible.We just have to go through the initiations to get the right of passage and then we can spread our wings.


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