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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Initiation

The progressive admission of a disciple or aspirant into degrees in the an esoteric school or organization. In the Greek mystery schools, divided into the Lesser and Greater Mysteries, there were three, five, seven or ten degrees, varying according to the one reporting.

Theosophy affirms the significance of initiations (usually written with a capital I) and relates them to the Path. Four are identified in THERAVADA BUDDHISMSrotapatti (“stream enterer”), Sakrdagamin (“once-returner”), Anagamin (“non-returner”), and Arahant (also written Arhan or Arhat, lit. “worthy,” but often translated “reverend”). Helena P. BLAVATSKY identifies these as “the four paths to Nirvana,” but adds that there are really seven Initiations in all, stating, “Three further higher grades have to be conquered by the Arhan who would reach the apex of the ladder of Arhatship” (SDI:206). These are sometimes identified in theosophical literature as CHOHAN, BODHISATTVA, and BUDDHA.

The Master KOOT HOOMI states, “The degrees of an Adept’s initiation mark the seven stages at which he discovers the secret of the sevenfold principles in nature and man and awakens his dormant powers” (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, #67 Chron., p. 189; Barker #15, p. 99).

Besant published in 1912 a book entitled Initiation: the Perfecting of Man (TPH, reprinted 1923, etc.) which detailed much of the thinking which was current at the time.

Much discussion on this subject is found in the books of Alice BAILEY that are said to be revelations from a Master of the Wisdom called DJUAL KHUL, particularly Discipleship in the New Age and Initiation, Human and Solar (Lucis Publishing Co.). As Bailey points out in the latter work (p. 10), the word “initiation” is derived from the Latin in- (“into”) and ire (“to go”), hence denotes making a beginning or entering into something. Dictionaries relate it to a rite which inducts a person into a society, group, or special kind of knowledge. In its theosophical use, as Bailey says, “It posits in its widest sense . . . an entrance into the spiritual life.”

P.S.H.

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