Sunday, March 26, 2006


We all go through them...maybe not a Master Mason initiation, but Confirmation, orientations, on-the-job training, fraternity/sorority hijinks, Rotarian nonsense...

then there are the informal but so, so transformational ones: falling in love, making love, falling out of love, breaking up, looking up and seeing the sky for the first time one day when you're 24...or 39...

and the big ones:
earning a Ph.D., becoming a renunciate, having children, facing death...

spiritually and otherwise, I've been through my share of initiations--the ones where I've Felt Something, whether it was at my Confirmation or my self-initiation into witchcraft...or the time my guru made a little dot on my forehead with some turmeric paste and said "Om Namah Shivaya" or the time Laura burst on the scene in Her fullness. (I called that post "Magical Mystery Tour" because if you read Michael Herr's
Dispatches that song becomes very frightening indeed, and if you don't it's just playful and charming--and it's all those things, and so is the spiritual path.)

Being a perfectionist, I used to make too big a deal out of initiations, not understanding fully that they're a self-conscious step towards another reality, not that other reality itself. One thing I've done to minimize initiatic fetishism is to take a 3rd Step every day, offering my will and my life to the care of my dear Kali. My first 3rd Step felt all trembly and momentous, aided by a sponsor wise enough to make me squirm a little; now I do it as a matter of course, while I'm driving to work and in between thoughts of meetings and hirings and firings.

Still, we all need a good kick in the pants now and again, a righteous repatterning, a nice neuron-smashing imprinting session. We need these because, though we might believe in nothing else, we all believe in the fiction of our selves, the narratives spun out of mind-chatter and mapped onto the charts of hive hierarchy. This vodoun initiation sounds wondrous...sorry for all the links in this...but read this one.

I admire the simplicity of keeping someone in a dark hut for five days; obviously practitioners of vodoun have often lacked the financial resources and public level of tolerance needed for elaborate pageantry, but the religion adapted accordingly, along lines that minimize distracting, berobed BS in favor of genuine expansion of the initiate's self--an Osirean fragmenting and reassembling...and as arduous and painful as it may be, Isis always gives you something new.

Especially interesting are the writer's observations on his various internal voices and their eventual silencing. Part of what I'm sure he learned in the hut is: if you silenced them once, you can do it again, and it won't take three days in the dark next time. As Mary Daly wrote, once you've been to the moon the first time, getting back is easy.

1 comment:

  1. " a deep, nonrational level I know that of course these healings are real because I experience them as real." (From the article.) Yup. I call it "subjective empirical evidence," because in the end, no matter what the objectivity, replicability, etc. of anything, we each experience it subjectively.

    Mary and I just saw a local production of The Miracle Worker. The HS freshman who played Helen Keller had prepared for the role in part by living without using her sight. (She's been in theater productions since she was 5 and was absolutely phenomenal.)