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“Certain rites of passage require that everything must first seem upside down, completely backwards or devoid of meaning before a step or leap into the unknown can stir the soul and inspire the dream of life to awaken again. The status quo must seem about to collapse altogether in order that the inner realm of soul might awaken again.
Certain events touch and confirm our “inner realities” as if there is an inner gradient, a “through line” and genuine lifeline waiting to be found and followed. Besides the more predictable stages of life transitions, there are critical moments when we don’t choose what happens, but we become the ones chosen. We are condemned to suffer in some way or receive unexpected rewards; we are elevated above our station or pulled into depths we would not willingly choose. Something unseen and unexpected touches our lives and we are changed in ways that can take time to unfold.
Life is change and the true life of the soul seeks repeated transformations. An initiation involves entering a threshold where we can gather enough tension and momentum to push ourselves to the next stage of our life. In that sense, initiation not only means taking a new step on the road of life, but also undergoing a complete change of life. What initiates us also strips us down to the inner essentials in order to release qualities and powers that were hidden within. Thus, stepping onto the path of initiation also means that there is no going back. On the paths of transformation, there can be no way back to the self-identity or limited sense of life we had before.
"As the inner dynamic of transformation, initiation means the continuous breaking open of areas of the soul in order to reveal hidden capacities and inherent gifts."
A true turning point in life threatens one’s habitual ways of being or acting on one level, but also opens the doors of perception at another level. We come to see the world as we are intended to see it and awaken to the true aim of our soul. An initiatory event involves healing old wounds as well as revealing the unique project and living experiment of our inner self and soul.
After being prefigured in adolescence, initiation is the psyche’s instinctive response to both the severe struggles and the great opportunities found in the course of life. Success as well as failure can shift the psychic ground in a person; so that a painful loss, severe separation or great challenge can evoke the inner dynamic of initiation in a person’s psyche. Whatever interrupts, breaks us open, or breaks us down—whether it is the trauma and shock of a loss in life or the drama and exhilaration of success—also initiates us into a greater knowledge of ourselves, particularly knowledge of the nature and style of our given soul.
Whatever alters the overt patterns of our lives also opens us up to psychological and mythical levels of unusual depth. Accident, divorce, abortion, the death of a loved one, the loss of a career, even eruptions of nature which destroy and reshape the landscape, all can precipitate the psyche’s expectation of a thorough rite of passage.
"The dramas that befall us become the detours from the mainstream that keep our hearts open to growing and our minds open to learning who we are at our essence and what we are meant to do in the world."
When seen through a “psychology of initiation,” the experiences that change our lives and mark us as unique individuals can be opened up and be re-examined to reveal what is trying to live into the world through us. Seen through the “eyes of initiation,” the exact wounds we carry turn out to be openings to a greater imagination as well as deeper understanding of who we are intended to be.
When enough people awaken to the inherent purpose and meaning in their own lives, a collective initiation can also occur and shift the level of meaning and the course of history. The real work of life involves meaningful attempts to rediscover the thresholds of change that open our hearts as well as the territories of our souls. As a poet once said, "I would give all the wealth of the world, and all the deeds of all the heroes, for one true vision of life."
- Michael Meade, "Awakening the Soul"