If you are tired of dogmatic religious practices you can create your own Wisdom Path. A Path for the person who says, ‘I’m Spiritual but Not Religious’.
Many spiritual but non-religious traditions have initations or rites of passage. The most common initiation practice or rite of passage in the world is probably puberty rites. These are sacred collective rituals whose function is to facilitate the transformation of an adolescent to an adult. There are records of puberty rites going back to the dawn of human history.
In the last few decades there has been an increased interest in different ‘New Age’ and Shamanic approaches to initiation. Some are quite serious and profound while others are no more than exercises in spiritual materialism. Authentic initiations are generally limited to those few who have a passion and a calling to do inner work that is not accessible to the rest of the community but may ultimately serve the community. This is the form of initiation would embraces on the Wisdom Path.
Aside from formal initiation ceremonies, there are often unofficial rites of passages held or practiced within subcultures of the larger group. Many aboriginal tribes use these practices to both reflect and define the tribal identity. Rites of Passage can include many different practices including: circumcision of males, genital mutilation of females, sub-incision and scarification. In these cultures initiation truly is a rite of passage in every sense of the word; preparing a young person to be a good husband or wife.
No Rite of Passage can take place in a group as large as two people. As the Christian Bible says ‘When two or more are gathered in my name I will surely be there’- And so it is. Initiation, formal and non-formal, exists in sub-cultures within larger groups. Such small communities exist within groups like the Green Beret’s, Navy Seals, and on board military vessels. Members of these groups are often tightly knit communities that are so internalized that they function like families, even after the initiate has left the military. These subgroups, like the larger groups they are part of, may have a hazing or a trial before a new member can be formally accepted.
Initiations and rites of passage should not be taken lightly and some can get pretty extreme. Of course, much college fraternity hazing is designed to be humiliating and can be dangerous without any deeper meaning of transformation. It’s just about ‘belonging to the group’ and doing anything one can to be accepted.
There is no specific time frame for an initiation and some involve multiple ceremonies stretching out over an extended period of time. My Shamanic Initiation extended over the course of two days. My Bar Mitzvah took a few hours. In some Aboriginal cultures initiations may take 3-4 months or even longer.
Many people question why these rites of passage are even important in a post digital society.
I would say more than ever and yet the more modern a society is, the less likely that initiation and rites of passage will be taken seriously regarding an individual’s growth and development. The anthropologist Joseph Campbell discussed television interviews with Bill Moyers. Without initiation and rites of passage society loses much of its reason for being; and that which was once held as sacred is lost. In some tribes initiation is essential if a person is to be regarded as a full member of the tribe. Otherwise, the individual may not be allowed to participate in core social rituals and ceremonies.
One might even say that there a sacred element to the concept of initiation that is separate from religion or spirituality. If we are hard wired to create community and to form groups and social networks then we must also have a reason for doing so. The group, as well, must have a reason for existing. This reason is sacred in that without it the community would have no reason for existing. Thus, initiation becomes sacred because it reconnects us to who we are, who we are to become, and where we are in the community. The initiation process also reconnects the community to its own history, origins, mythology, and culture.
About the Author
Lewis Harrison is an speaker, consultant, and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. He is a pioneer in the personal development movement The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers seminar, workshops, retreats and phone based coaching.
He created the course on Life Strategies http://www.LewisHarrisonsAppliedGameTheory.com – based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash the Nobel prize winning subject of the biopick ‘A Beautiful Mind’. Lewis holds regular stress management, and meditation retreats at his Spa in the Western Catskills. Learn more at Thecatskillsbedandbreakfast.com
His company offers on-site chair massage through http://www.eventschairmassage.com
Lewis hosts a weekly radio show ‘What Up’ that explore game theory. The show broadcasts Wednesdays, on WIOX 91.3 FM – 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM (EST). The show is also available as an internet stream at the same time period at WIOXRadio.org
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