Myth and the Male Journeyby Tim Drown
Myth is a commonly misunderstood term in the modern era. It has come to refer to a story without factual basis. We think of myth as akin to fantasy-based fairy-tales that have little value to our modern lives. Myth and story are the guardians of powerful messages and long-forgotten truths that lie dormant within the realms of the unconscious. They exist not as hard facts or intellectual truths, but as illusive archetypal phantoms. These archetypes are the substance of mature masculinity. Cultures worldwide have sought to awaken young men to these archetypal realities through ritualistic practise known as “rites of passage”. These rites were sacred and often carried out in the male community. Individuals were physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared for the rites, but the rites themselves were only an external expression of an inward journey and did not in themselves, ensure the consummation of manhood.
This inner journey that beckons every man is often referred to as “initiation”. Today, initiation presents itself through life’s challenges. As men, we are incredibly unprepared for the inward journey, thus when discomforting emotions present themselves or the deep questions of life momentarily grasp our consciousness, we too easily cast them off with one of the many distractions available in a world geared toward the immature masculine. We seem to have grown proud of our reputation as “adult children”. Advertising has become effective at targeting and reinforcing the image of men as “boys who never grows up”. This is in fact a valid shadow archetype present in the male journey, but one that slows the journey to masculine maturity.
Myth and legend are the gatekeepers of sacred codes that merge with the unconscious mind to activate the blueprint of masculine potential. As we allow ourselves to suspend critical judgement and surrender to their stories, facets of manhood lost to the modern era begin to awaken and seek an avenue of expression through which they may emerge. Too often these deep stirrings are accompanied by strange and unwelcome feelings which the average male has been taught to drown out with alcohol, lose in a new relationship and channel into building his career. As a result shallow masculinity flourishes, but few dare to darken the threshold of initiated manhood.
If all this sounds intense, I can assure you it is. It’s as intense as the tales of kings of old as they rode out to war. It’s as intense as a knight in pursuit of a sacred quest. It’s a journey that cannot be undertaken lightly, but one that transforms boys into men and men into kings. It’s the journey you are here to undertake – the journey of manhood.
To respond to its call we must move beyond the safety of logic, release the security of the rational mind and be willing to lose ourselves in worlds of symbol and mystery. There are no answers here, only questions that guide us deeper on our quest as we seek to uncover life’s secrets, and in doing so, delve deeper into the mystery of ourselves. Pirates pursuing treasure, sorcerers weaving magic and mighty kings conquering foreign lands all hold the keys to the mystery of our psyche, luring us deeper into the discovery of our true identities as we release our grip on our controlled lives and venture into the untameable wilderness of real masculinity.
Along this road are dark shadows we must pass through, wild beasts to contend with and fair maidens to awaken. Enemies must be faced and alliances made if a kingdom is to be established and to flourish. All this occurs according to a timing that reveals itself through the circumstances of our lives. Life is kind, and our manhood longs to develop so for every opportunity missed, another is presented. Every longing repressed emerges. If we fail to heed the call of initiation, our life will cycle in a holding pattern as missed opportunities arise and pass us by. Yet our journey is stalled, not forgotten, as by wisdom or chance, we eventually stumble into the next challenge in our quest.
Would you like to learn to read the signs? Do you feel the stirring towards becoming a conscious traveller on this rewarding journey and marvellous quest? Join us then, on the pathway to manhood and allow your eyes to be opened to the wonderful, the amazing, the powerful and sensitive human being that is you.
Pitfalls along the Path to MaturityBy Paul Murphy and Tim Drown
Deep within every man exists the blueprint for masculine maturity. Masculine maturity is a broad state of being that means so much more than being “grown-up”, or having the ability to navigate life. The pinnacle of maturity is activated as the King archetype is initiated. As this occurs, the world changes before our very eyes. Potentials and abilities that we didn’t even know existed begin to emerge and we discover a new power and freedom.
As we grow into maturity as men, we bring incredible value and well-being to the world. Extending our kingdom beyond its borders through the discovery and implementation of new ideas,insights and ways of being, taking the world beyond its known limits. As the light king is empowered within us, we bring wealth and harmony to those within our realm of influence. Men functioning in the fullness of Kingship leave a lasting impression on the world. The potential for such maturity is ‘hard-wired’ into the soul of every man and is eventually achieved through the conscious activation of the masculine archetypes that exist and frequently lay dormant, deep within our unconscious minds.
Emerging from deep instinctual patterns and energetic (spiritual) configurations as ancient as man himself, the archetypes are at the very foundation of our behaviours, our thinking, feeling and our characteristic human reactions. They are the image makers and creative forces that artists, poets, prophets and seers are so close to.
Carl Jung, a father of psychotherapy, related them directly to base instinct. These blueprints manifest themselves as both male and female, so in everyman there is a feminine sub personality called the anima, made up of the feminine archetypes. And in every woman there is a masculine sub personality called the animus. All human beings have access to all of the archetypes to a lesser or greater degree.
In the absence of ritual initiation, it is life and relationship that summons and activates these archetypal energies. When we see qualities in another man (or woman) that we are drawn to and wish to develop, it is the inactive archetype within that is stirring and responding to a demonstration of its qualities in another. As we admire others, we literally gaze upon our own potential. As we curse others, we are plagued by own shadow.
The journey to maturity is well supported by the activation of these archetypal potentials in the life of a man. The benefit flows freely to those around him as he becomes a role model, summoning forth the dormant potentials in others.
Failure to activate these potentials leads to a life lived in masculine immaturity (immaturity meaning “undeveloped” or “unfilled potential"). The drug dealer, the ducking and diving political leader, the wife beater, the chronically crabby boss, the hot shot junior executive, the unfaithful husband, the company yes man, the indifferent school advisor, the holier-than-thou minister, the gang member, the father who can never find the time to attend his daughters school programs, the coach who ridicules his star athletes and the therapist who unconsciously attacks his clients shining, forcing them toward a kind of grey normalcy all hold something in common; their archetypal energies lay under developed and they live life from the shadows, falling well short of their masculine potential.
Our society has been dominated by generations of such men. But they are not to blame. Role models of the mature masculine have been few and far between. Just as absent are the sage-like mentors who can guide men through life’s rigorous initiation towards maturity. As a result, we have fallen for a kind of pretence to manhood as the norm. We have been led to settle for a model of manhood that lacks maturity and is primarily functional as we give ourselves to the economic treadmill so valued by society.
The devastating fact is that most men are fixated at an immature level of development. These developmental levels are governed by the inner blueprints appropriate to boyhood. When we attempt to function as adults from our childhood blueprints, when the archetypes of boyhood are not built upon and transcended through initiation into adulthood, they cause us to act out of the boyishness that is hidden to us, but seldom to others.
We often talk with affection about the innocence and joy of childhood in our culture. When he is in his appropriate place in our lives, the boy in each of us is a source of playfulness, pleasure, fun, energy and an open-minded approach to life that is ready for adventure and optimistic about the future.
When the child is not nurtured and the childhood archetypes do not successfully transition into those required for adulthood, we become trapped in the shadow child. The necessary qualities that exist as stages of childhood development are never transcended. We live as boys in the bodies of men, trying desperately to fit into an adult world while covering our dependence, insecurity, need for love and approval, ego-centricity and uncontainable emotions that most frequently emerge as anger through rage-filled tantrums.
The journey to into manhood requires us to take responsibility for our lives. It requires sensitivity to the unresolved energies waring within and the willingness to face the rites of passage presented by life, no matter how uncomfortable or confronting. The most prominent response to these rites as they present themselves is to initiate an avoidance strategy that serves to secure our comfort but hold us back from the potential that longs to be fulfilled in our lives.
Rites of Passage and InitiationBy Tim Drown and Paul Murphy
The term initiation in masculine development means “a point of transformation”. When initiation occurs, a tangible change takes place in the life of a man that is clearly felt and experienced by himself and usually observable to everybody else. In Western culture, we use initiation to describe the entrance into or beginning of something new. A man may be initiated into a secret society or club. Religion has an initiation process to mark entrance and allegiance to its belief system and practise. A man beginning a new job will generally under-go a formal induction, however the initiation process is the unseen dynamic as he struggles to find his place and settle in, particularly in relation to his fellow employees.
The process a man goes through leading up to this tangible change is known as a “rite of passage”. The rite of passage into the Christian Religion is usually some form of baptism. Secret societies have their rites that a man must pass through in order to be accepted. In adolescent circles, particularly in the USA, mock rites may be held as an initiation into a college fraternity or sporting team. These usually include some form of shaming the initiate as a test of their willingness to belong, and for the pleasure of the initiators!
Initiation in the archetypal sense refers to the activation of the mature archetypes. When a man moves from hero to warrior, he takes on a new sense of responsibility for his community. He begins to think beyond his own needs and becomes passionate about issues that are greater than himself. Initiation does not mean that he has entered the fullness of the warrior archetype, only that his journey as a warrior has now begun. As the warrior matures, he learns to choose his battles wisely and comes to an acceptance of an imperfect world – something that a new initiate has yet to discover. Sadly, when the young warrior’s idealism is shattered through the impossible quests upon which he embarks, he is likely to fall into the shadow of bitterness and disappointment, if he is not accompanied by a wise mentor or guide. The shattering of such idealism is a rite of passage in itself, and necessary for the maturation of the warrior and the initiation of the magician.
Tribal cultures have long held such initiatory rites. Some are undertaken according to age, however in cultures where ancient wisdom prevails, rites are held when the elders deem a youth or man to be ready. Timing is essential if ritual initiation is to be successful. When a man is initiated he is entrusted with the wisdom of the culture and the responsibility of its preservation. He will contribute directly to the preservation of the tribe, particularly in matters of great importance. Thus, a ritual itself does not indicate a man is initiated. He must be psychologically, emotionally and spiritually ready.
In Western culture, we have lost the ritualised approach to initiation, thus men pass through these rites unconsciously as various archetypes struggle to emerge. As society at large has not been built upon the values of the mature archetypes, often this struggle will appear counter-cultural and will be crushed or hushed, at times expressing itself anti-socially through lashing out at others or isolation from a world that has no insight to the maturation process.
Maturity is our destination and we move steadily, albeit unconsciously, towards it. Our archetypes long to emerge and carry us forward. At times they rise up and beckon to us, stirring us deeply, confronting our way of life. Usually, without knowing how to interpret this call, we dismiss it and carry on in the mainstream flow. The archetype is silenced for a period until it re-emerges. Thus we find ourselves in cycles, constantly returning to a familiar scenario or problem in one form or another.
Our romantic relationships progress so far and then, like clockwork, collapse – we begin to wonder what is wrong with ourselves – or with women! The reality is, our lover archetype has not been initiated so we cannot manage the deep intimacy a lasting relationship requires. Thus we commence a new cycle, until we reach the familiar crisis. Crisis is a sure sign that we are ready for initiation. With the right guidance and support through the crisis we face in life can initiate a deeper maturity, moving us closer to our highest potential.
The immature warrior loses yet another job as he goes head to head with his employer, over an injustice that appears much greater to him in his idealism that to the rest of the world. It takes some time for the warrior to learn when and how to use his sword and for the insight of the magician to be activated. The immature warrior remains significantly influenced by the hero, until he stops chopping at windmills and finds submission in the service of a king.
Each cycle - each crisis - creates the opportunity for initiation and the activation or maturing of an archetype that longs to be fulfilled. If you hear a man asking “why does this always happen to me,” it is a clear sign that he is unaware of the opportunity that is presenting itself.
Remarkably, tribal initiatory rites of passage usually involve a ritual wounding that scars a mans body, or a potentially life threatening quest to be undertaken. It seems it takes a crisis to initiate a man, to force him to look into his soul. His back must be against the wall if he is to finally accept the limitations of his physical strength. As he is forced to dig deep in his struggle to survive, the energy of the archetypes is activated and can be integrated with the help of a mentor or guide.
Whether the ancients observed that a contained and supported crisis is kinder to the initiate than the unexpected crisis he may face alone in life, or that it takes a crisis to force a man deeper, we don’t know. However we do know that in the absence of ritual initiation and a lack of understanding of the rites of passage process, many men face dark shadows alone and suffer needlessly from the decisions they make at such times. If a rite of passage is embraced as it presents itself, we avoid extended suffering and move further into maturity as the process of life initiates us.
Introduction: Twelve Levels of Initiationby Paul Murphy & Tim Drown
To pass through initiation is to experience a shift in conscious-ness. Consciousness can be described as “world view”, or the summary of one’s beliefs, thoughts and actions. It is the rationale a man lives by, or the depth of awareness and understanding with which he approaches life.
Ritual initiation has been used in clubs, tribes and religion for centuries. When ritual initiation occurs, it implies the transference of loyalty to a group or cause. It marks a shift in consciousness for the individual, from the lone self to the collective “we”. Once an individual passes through initiation, he belongs to a cause greater than himself. This sense of belonging creates a shift in consciousness.
When one is initiated into manhood, or an archetype is initiated within a man, it means the man has gained insight about himself, resolved blockages that prevented him from growing and moved into a new-found maturity. This is indeed, a shift in consciousness.
Twelve is a powerfully symbolic number in the history of mankind. Many traditions believe in the concept of twelve levels of initiation, or twelve levels of consciousness that one experiences on the journey to enlightenment or maturity. Each level of consciousness brings a new found depth of insight, providing a wider perspective of what it means to be human.
People often experience a shift in consciousness when they meet a significant teacher or encounter a particular teaching for the first time. This is symbolic initiation. Initiation is an inner shift that is often marked by an outer experience. What makes the initiation real is the inner shift. It is common to attempt to replicate the external circumstances for others to follow in order to experience the inner shift. A man may become “evangelistic” about a certain teacher, or an organisation may set up a ritual to facilitate initiation (one size fits all!). Replication of the outer circumstances does not guarantee initiation and may result in little more than empty religion.
A shift in consciousness dramatically changes the life of an individual. An initiated man can never return to a lower level of consciousness. Attempting to do so will have a direct and negative impact his vitality and happiness. It is like falling passionately in love with a soul mate and then living in denial of the passion and desire one feels. Unless we embrace the new consciousness unfolding before us, we are robbed of a truly joy-filled life. This series explores the twelve levels of initiation in segments, based on Sufi teaching. (Sufi’s are the mystics of the Moslem faith).
Twelve Levels of Initiation: Levels 1 - 3By Paul Murphy & Tim Drown
According to Sufi teaching, the first initiation happens to the embryo in the womb as the soul incarnates into the human form. This is the very first gift of consciousness that separates humanity from the instinct-driven animal kingdom. In this initial level of consciousness, there is no awareness of separation or individuality. To the consciousness of the child, the whole world extends from him and is part of him. He and his mother are one. He is fused with his environment. This level of consciousness is a beautiful state. We are, the universe is, and
everything is pure.
It is surmised that, at the dawn of humanity, this was the predominate state of consciousness of human-kind. This is captured in mythology by the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, and in the Aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime. In Eden, there was no knowledge of good or evil, no awareness of duality or separation.
Dreamtime stories explain clearly how the vastness of the land, men, women and animals emerged from a common source, growing out of one another, as it were.
This was the first gift of consciousness that was given to humanity. We see it in the innocence and purity of a newly born child. It has been said that the goal of life is to cycle through the levels of consciousness to return to this sweet and pure union. What a great feat to recover this lost gem that we must leave behind, in order to experience the thrill of rediscovering it.
The second level of awareness is that of duality. Duality is the emergence of opposites – the experience of good and bad, light and dark, peace and conflict. It is the great loss of innocence, captured in the myths and legends of history. It is Adam and Eve, driven from Eden and the wounding of the Fisher-King. The initiation of this consciousness disrupted the comfortable and wealthy existence of Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha), prompting him to leave his father’s home and begin the quest of enlightenment beginning with the alleviation of suffering.
This shift to the second level is painful. It is the experience of separation. The child realises the mother is no longer present when she leaves the room. Confused, he cries. An emptiness forms as the love, comfort and security associated with the mother become an externalised experience, rather than an ever-present part of the infant’s world. Suddenly love and assurance come and go and the child - sensing its absence - suffers.
This loss of innocence is an initiation into the physical world in which we all must partake. This awareness of separation gives rise to the third level of consciousness - the ego. An independent “I” is born. The reality of the first level of consciousness and the security that accompanied it has been tested and questioned. Over a period of time – perhaps many years, the awareness of separation develops into the ego expression of self.
We don’t know how many thousands of years it took for humanity to evolve to this level of consciousness. Through the ego comes the awareness of choice, and a man enters into a very complex stage of development. Infinite questions are now raised – Who am I? What do I like? What don’t I like? Who do I like? What do I want to do with my life? What do I believe about life, the world and beyond? What is good and what is bad? Who is good and who is bad? What’s the best way to change the tyre on my car? Should I change the tyre on my car? What does it mean about me if I don’t (or can’t) change the tyre on my car? The list of questions rising out of our ego-obsession is endless.
The mass of humanity presently resides at this level of consciousness. It is a very dynamic level, as nothing is settled. An enormous amount of consciousness is absorbed by daily questioning and decision making. Making good decisions that ensure the maintenance of the lifestyle to which one has become accustomed and the strength and security of the ego becomes the primary object of life.
Many men do not surpass this third level of initiation. However, those who allow themselves to ask the deeper questions that challenge and undermine the routines and assumptions upon which they have built their lives, these men begin the painstaking experience of the fourth level of initiation.
Twelve Levels of Initiation: Levels 4 - 6by Paul Murphy & Tim Drown
The fourth level of initiation requires a radical restructure of our belief systems and perspective. The mid-life crisis is often the natural stirring of a soul as it responds to the call of spiritual and psychological evolution, disrupting the superficial reality created by the ego. These are the stirrings of the Magician archetype, longing to emerge. In the great legend of Merlin and King Arthur, Merlin lays claim to the child Arthur, taking him from King Uther and hiding him away under the protection of a worthy household. Having taken guardianship of Arthur, Merlin bides his time, watching and waiting until the young prince is ready to rise to the throne.
The magician archetype is the guardian of the emerging king. The initiation of the magician is essential for a man to move into full maturity and for his kingdom (his life) to flourish. Sadly, few men have been prepared to respond to these deep stirrings and fewer still are mentored through them. Thus they seek superficial and rather unsatisfactory solutions to quell their emerging restlessness.
As the eyes of the inner-mystic are slowly opened, we discover that good and bad are not external forces that randomly impact our lives, but rather a reflection of the thoughts, feelings and motives that exist within. The ego strives to see itself without shadow or defect. The awakening that occurs during initiation into level four allows us to admit to our defects and even accept our own darkness. It is this integration of the shadow that guides us out of black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking and into the colourful and abstract world of balance.
The complexity of a level four initiation usually requires the modelling and guidance of a mentor, or a structured belief system. Men may begin to explore religion as they seek a new way of thinking that will facilitate such a shift. Likewise, a man who has been involved in religion may, during this initiation, turn his back on the belief system of his past. The magician is the master of balance, bringing together the masculine and feminine energies. The archetype of the lover may be revived or even initiated and a man may experience feminine nurturing energies, birthing the desire to help others or assist a cause.
Men begin to realise they are partially responsible for the trouble they see around them and become aware of how the refining of their own consciousness has a direct and worthy impact on their world. The step into this fourth level of consciousness is a step into wholeness. Men are no longer torn between the opposites inside themselves; rather they become integrated and united. The masculine embraces the feminine, peace is possible through conflict, anger is held in tension with love. None are condemned, all are accepted. A sense of peace and well-being emerges as the tension of duality begins to resolve.
Though more peaceful than the third level of initiation, the fourth is not without its challenges. For now a man’s eyes are turned inwards. Rather than wrestling with the dragons of the outer world, he wrestles with the inner-demons that have unconsciously driven his life. As awareness increases, radical personal growth ensues. However, awareness sheds light on wounds that, until this moment, have been ignored, buried, or forgotten.
During this stage, a man wrestles with the tension between his humanity and his divinity. He seeks to understand and at times, erroneously eradicate the imperfection in himself and the world around him. He will take great strides forward as the magician brings revelation and insight, but will be equally tormented as the shadow magician attempts to turn the experience into an intellectual exercise and thereby steer him away from deepening maturity.
Overall, this radical shift in perception will cause one to wonder what the world is fussing about. Awakened to the vanity of the outer world, a man may become as equally disenchanted as enlightened. Knowing that the destiny of all has one beginning and one end, that every man’s journey and every event is as valid as the next turns our traditional values system on its head, making it hard to be fully present in a world functioning largely at level three. Solomon, the great scholar and king of ancient times, is famous for lamenting “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” as he tried to come to grips with this level of initiation.
As one matures in this fourth level, life becomes more harmonious and begins to flow naturally. A sense of wholeness and connection precedes the shift into the fifth level of initiation. At this level, a man begins to move into the wholeness and deep comfort of his humanity. As his wrestle with "the gods" and with himself subsides, a man is truly liberated. He finds deep acceptance of his shadow, and makes peace with his human limitation. The vanity of the ego is finally subdued and he is freed from the constant tussle with inadequacy. Five is the number of completion and fullness. This is represented in myth by the five shining knights that ride past the adolescent Perceval of Arthurian legend, inspiring the young innocent to begin his journey into manhood.
At this this level, humility is a daily reality. An old Buddhist proverb states “the uneducated man walks home from work wondering what is for dinner. The man who seeks enlightenment walks home from work, attempting to solve the problems of the world. The enlightened man walks home from work, wondering what is for dinner.” The embrace of our human frailty brings relief from the inner struggle and ushers in the dawn of masculine kingship.
Out of the few men who are initiated at this level, still fewer will continue on in the initiatory process. Having found some sense of peace and empowerment, many retire to the domestic realms. To arrive at this level of peace with oneself is an accomplishment. Many men do not want to be pushed any further. This is a valid decision as at this level, we enter deeply into the gift of free will. We are no longer tossed back and forth by waves of doubt and popular opinion. There is no need to achieve or prove oneself in the desperate attempt to grasp a sense of well-being.
Such a man deeply and confidently exercises his mature will to pause at this level of initiation, or alternatively to press on. A few are drawn by the whisper of the mystical realm, the taunting of the magician to explore the world of mystery. Such a man will remain restless even at this stage of his life, finding himself drawn toward the sixth level of initiation.
There is a presence that surrounds a man who has reached the sixth level of initiation. Often quiet and unassuming, there is a deep sense that such men are making a very real contribution to life through who he is rather than what he does. They hold genuine respect for themselves, for life and for others. A sense of safety and security encompasses them and people feel safe in their presence.
A deep awareness of personal spirituality emerges as truth and spirit now flow freely in the life of the initiate. Life is dynamic because he has so much to give. He is a man of vision and inspiration.
The sixth level is dynamic, as a deep connection with infinite intelligence opens the doors of endless possibility releasing treasure chests of wisdom. It is an exciting experience as one is now stretched beyond one’s human limitations – not by ego - but by an undefinable power greater than oneself.
The magician is the highly active archetype at this level of initiation. The grounding in one’s humanity that occurs in the fifth level is now very important; otherwise one can become “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”! At times, men advance into levels they are not prepared for. They may be driven by the insatiable appetite of the ego, or have caught glimpses of higher initiatory levels through ecstatic spiritual experiences, drug use or mental health episodes. Such a man is on dangerous ground. It is from this experience that the ancient Hebrew adage emerged “no man can see God and live”.
For the man who has prepared himself, who has journeyed faithfully through the prior stages of initiation, who has wrestled with the world, himself and God and has grounded himself in his humanity, such a man is now faced with reconciling two worlds – the eternal world of spirit and the temporal world of the physical realms.
The greatest spiritual masters of the world have forged this path and moved beyond. While we are but novices in their shadows, we are blessed to have their example to guide us. Buddha, Krishna and Jesus of Nazareth are but a few of the masters who have brought heaven to earth and successfully held the tension for all to see. This is the joyous and challenging journey of the sixth level of initiation. It is a burden with a promise. The reward is in the journey itself, which is described by the ancient text that states “the light has shone in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
The sixth level of initiation is the beginning of mastery as the archetypal king is born. In the light, this “once and future king” will bring peace and prosperity to the realm. However if not artfully mentored and carefully initiated, this king can be the downfall of a man’s world, plunging him and his realm into poverty of character and slavery to vice. The way forward can be a rewarding and fulfilling journey if undertaken with the support of a community of men.
Twelve Levels of Initiation: Level 7By Paul Murphy and Tim Drown
The first six levels of initiation according to the Sufi's, primarily outline the psychological development that is the potential of every man. They are grounded in reality and have a context in the normal experience of our daily lives. As we enter into the seventh level of initiation, we now leave the psychological realm and enter a purely spiritual teaching that may be harder to grasp and context-ualise within the parameters of our humble, earthly experience.
The shift from the sixth to the seventh level of initiation is a step into a new and divine realm of existence. It is possible, though somewhat perilous, to move through the first six levels of initiation alone. However the transition from the sixth to seventh level cannot be undertaken in isolation. It requires such a deep initiation of consciousness that we cannot access it alone.
No great quest into the deepest reaches of the unconscious is taken alone. Knights frequently rode in groups, or were assisted by a squire. The quest to Mordor to overcome the rising darkness in Tolkien’s great work The Lord of the Rings required the Fellowship of the Ring, formed at the bidding of great the Wizard Gandalf. The full spectrum of archetypes came together in order for the quest to be fulfilled. As Frodo Baggins journeyed through the dark unknown, representing the subconscious realm, he was constantly confronted by dark reflections of his own frailty that he could not overcome alone.
This dark and perilous quest gives rise to the birth of mystical consciousness. Seven is the number of the mystic, of the man who is now moving into what is called the God consciousness; pure alignment with the divine. There is a Sufi saying that “man is my secret, and I am his secret.” There is a great secret hidden within our human frailty, that we contain within us this potential for Divine consciousness and complete union with the Divine. Our religions and mythology forbade us from accessing this empowering truth, for if we are not rightfully prepared for this revelation, this treasure beyond our imagination is reduced to the level of ego, and thus placed even further beyond our reach.
This is reflected by the Sufi adage “I am a hidden treasure and I long to be found”. A man cannot move into this level of initiation unless he is deeply prepared for it. In other initiatory levels a man may, with persistence, force his way through. However unless the archetypes work harmoniously and his intentions are pure, the power required to take a man to this seventh level will not be forth-coming.
It is this readiness that attracts the teachers and mentors into a man’s life at each level of initiation. In the seventh level it is this readiness alone that determines whether a man shall move forward.
The seventh level of initiation leads to the complete dissolution of the ego (as much as that is possible while he still abides in the world of duality). The great master, Jesus of Nazareth, was one day faced with several men wishing to become his disciple. As each man pledged his allegiance, Jesus insightfully challenged their core values. The first would-be follower wanted leave to bury his father, the second to consummate his marriage and the third to sell his belongings. Jesus challenged them all to walk away at that moment with nothing more than the shirt on their backs. The three were quickly lured back to their unfinished business. Shaking his head sadly Jesus stated “if anyone would become my disciple, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.”
We can make sense of this statement, given our knowledge of his martyrdom at the hands of the Romans. However, at this point in the unfolding narrative of his life; no one knew Jesus would be crucified. Essentially, he was saying one must be ready to die to enter in to the level of initiation he was offering. This death is the dissolution of the ego. At this point, the needs, desires, wants and essentials of the “I” cease to have any power over a man. He no longer has any desire for or connection to self-promotion or even self-preservation, for he has seen beyond the veil of the human consciousness and knows his eternal place in the universe.
The first six levels of initiation are the establishment of and mastery over the ego. The shift to the seventh leads to complete freedom from ego, but in doing so one begins the lonely journey down the path less trod. Who can relate to the ego-less man? Who can comprehend the man who has no need for financial security, material possessions or the machinations of our superficial society? This is why so many feel content with the initiation of levels five and six, for they sense a calling to remain within the boundaries of the physical universe and actively participate in the world of men, rather than transcend it.
As the process of initiation begins, the initiate enters into mystical conscious. Thus number seven has become the number of the mystic. This initiation is traditionally imparted from an initiated teacher to the ready student. In the absence of a suitable teacher, a group may unknowingly hold the consciousness and impart the initiation through their combined energy.
This is a sacred and deeply unconscious process. Such initiation cannot be consciously conjured. There is no ceremony that can be undertaken nor formula followed. In the right conditions it occurs mostly without the initiates knowledge, apart from moments here and there when one senses a deep inner shift occurring.
Twelve Levels of Initiation: Levels 8-12By Paul Murphy & Tim Drown
If few men
ever enter the level of the true mystic, fewer still move through levels
8-12. For this reason we will visit them
only briefly, for the ego struggles to comprehend the absence of itself and
even more its radical transformation.
In this eighth level, the initiate enters in to the consciousness of the infinite. There is a saying by the great Bengali philosopher Tagore,“God has made us infinite, such is his pleasure”. Exposure to our own infinite nature reveals dimensions and realities that until now, have been hidden from our consciousness.
This may sound like a ridiculous or crazy concept, but we can draw similar parallels to the normal human experience of life. As a teenager I lived in a coastal country town. My friends became interested in diving and invited me on several occasions. I was disinterested and couldn't see the point of it all, until one day I gave in and went with them. I still remember the first time I donned a mask and snorkel and submerged my head below the surface. I suddenly discovered an entire world that I had been ignorant to. The reef teemed with colourful and exotic life like I had never before encountered. From that moment on, I became an avid diver.
The same can be said of the world of romance. At some point in our childhood, we begin to see the classmates we have grown up with differently. The childlike relationship gives way to an emerging sexual interest. Tension arises and new sensations emerge around various individuals. When we experience that first romantic kiss, a whole new reality emerges that we were here-to-fore ignorant of.
In the same way, during the eighth level of initiation, our limited thinking falls away as our minds and spirits are opened. We see in a way we have not seen before, we begin to understand the complexities of the human experience and the dimensions that exist beyond our physical world. This relationship with the infinite can be described by the saying “larger than large and smaller than small”. Such a level of consciousness, if ever reached, produces a whole new category of challenges. It is difficult to integrate as we struggle to find a peaceful balance with the human experience.
The ninth level of initiation is the attainment of spiritual mastery. At the eighth level, one abides with the infinite, learning about the infinite, observing the relationship of everyday life, the forces at work from the inner planes where all manifestations of the un-created emerge. Now in level nine, the wisdom and creative power of the universe courses through the energy field of the man-become-master. He is both teacher and student. All urgency has been put aside and along with it, fear and doubt. Nothing disturbs him for he sees shadow and light as one. Death is not a threat but a transition into the non-physical universe. The human identity becomes so merged and attuned with his spiritual-being that he interprets the world through spiritual lenses, yet remains peacefully grounded within it. The capacity of our ego-bound minds cannot begin to comprehend the way and thought of such a master.
The tenth level involves the absorption into nothingness. One is no longer a spiritual master. Mastery has gone and no longer exists. Furthermore, he lives in a world that doesn't exist. Like the sub-atomic particles that flash in and out of reality, “you are and you are not”. This level is about existing in the UN-created emptiness yet paradoxically, present to and a part of the world of form. This state is represented by the empty circle. It is a state of pure non-being within form. This is what is meant by the Buddhist void.
In the journey to this level, a man will struggle with “existentialism” - a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Being present without purpose, existing without fear or meaning creates difficultly in comprehending ones journey through this lifetime. Everything is meaningless, lacking purpose or value. All is one and therefore, doing anything pointless and unnecessary. Yet mastery of this level, as with all levels, requires the initiate to integrate this deep wisdom into his existence on the physical plain.
Such mastery gives way to the eleventh stage of initiation. Here, one must learn what it is to be human again with the knowledge that nothing is real. It is akin to re-acclimatising oneself. This re-acclimatisation can be confusing and difficult, as none of the levels are without their challenges. Re-immersing one-self in the world of lower consciousness plays havoc with the high sensitivities that have been refined in the later stages of initiation. A whole new acceptance of the shadow must be obtained. During the early levels we see the journey out of the shadow through the acceptance of it. Now, one willingly enters back into the shadow with the knowledge that it is merely an illusion and has already been transcended.
This challenge is captured in the story of the Little Mermaid – the mystical being who ascended from the place of mystery to take her place among men. As she set out upon her quest she was warned that every step she took would be as treading upon daggers. It is difficult to hold the reality of unnecessary suffering in tension with the actual non-existence of it as one walks once more in the world of men during this level of initiation.
At the eleventh level, the ego exists only to serve the higher-self. This level is known as the return to the source dwelling. As the Sufi's say, “in one’s true abode the river flows tranquil and the flowers are red.” As mentioned in the fifth level, one must take responsibility as a human being and participate in life from an awareness of harmony. The eleventh level of initiation requires this from a much higher level of consciousness. It means to participate in life from a place of non- being, from the simple essence of spirit.
Twelve is the number of perfection and it is perfection we are said to find in the twelfth and final level of initiation. This is the perfect man who has realised within himself all the possibilities of his being. It is the completion of the human psyche. It is said a certain number of these people are required to keep the world in perfect balance.
The Zen image of this level is bare foot and naked at breast. “I mingle with the people of the world, my clothes are ragged and dust laden and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life now, before me the dead trees become alive.” These people can become so unrecognised that they are almost invisible to the average man consumed by the material world. You may pass them by on the street without even noticing because they are so intricately wound in the ebb and flow and purity of life. There is no glamour for these people have no need to make a statement about anything. However, magic happens around them. They rarely set themselves up as spiritual teachers. In Sufi this state is the full actualisation of the word Allah, which means attaining the full potential of a human being, one with the Divine and fully aligned with Divine Will.
It is a personal opinion that these levels are un-achievable in any one lifetime, and reflect more the process of the evolution of the soul, rather than an individual consciousness. The Sufi’s are strangely silent on the topic of reincarnation and for those who have reached the seventh initiation it certainly feels as if one has arrived there within a single lifetime. It is the nature of consciousness to initially lose the wisdom of the soul gleaned through many earthly experiences. It is also the process of reincarnation for that wisdom to come flooding back as life events trigger it. This is why we refer to individuals as “old souls”, for the wisdom they carry is beyond their years.
Steeped in mysticism itself, the Sufi tradition acknowledges the is/is not nature of existence and Sufi’s are therefore hesitant to lock any teaching or concept into the concrete mind of a student. Sufi teachers are therefore careful of how and why they speak to such topics.
The method of the Sufi is quietude and silent progress, in order that the student might arrive at the stage where they may see the path and grasp the mystery for themselves. This can be a source of frustration for inquiring minds, but one must always remember that initiation is not a process of the mind but of the whole person and indeed, the soul.