Here, in the continuing series of teachings about initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan points out that it is breaking away from the flock, and taking a step that others do not take. The previous post in the series may be found here.
The word initiation is interpreted by different people in different ways. By some it is considered to be a kind of attachment to a certain secret order, but what I mean by initiation is taking a step forward on a path unknown to oneself.
Initiations are of three different kinds. One initiation comes from within oneself, and this initiation is a person’s intention to proceed on a path which is not generally taken by his fellow creatures. If this does not come from within, he will always be afraid to take a step further on a path which others around him do not take, for the conception of the generality is not that of an individual. The nature of most people is like that of sheep; wherever sheep are taken, there all the other sheep will follow. One should realize that although it is the nature of sheep to move in a flock, this is not the real nature of man. He will always deny that he has this tendency, and he will disapprove of it, and yet he will do the very thing without knowing that he does it. If you want to see it, just stand in the street and look up with surprise, acting as if you were absorbed in what you see, and soon twenty persons will be standing by your side, not only foolish people but wise ones too! Therefore he who is initiated, who walks on the path of initiation, is someone who has risen above the crowd, and goes his individual way forward, independent of those who are around him.
When a man begins to feel that there is something behind the veil, when he begins to feel that there is something which he can attain by effort, then he takes the first step on the path which as yet he does not know. One should not be surprised if one notices this initiation in a five-year-old child; neither need one be surprised if one does not see any sign of it in a man of sixty years; he has had no tendency towards it, and all his life he has not thought about it. But the one who has received this initiation will go on; even in childhood he will show the tendency to take a step forward on a path which others do not take.
One will find this initiation in all the different aspects of life. A child taking a slate and pencil and drawing a picture, while not being an artist, yet has a tendency to draw something, perhaps an idea which is not a child’s idea but is very wonderful. One will find a child humming or singing a piece of music that a composer will be surprised to hear. He is doing something which is not ordinary, something which comes spontaneously from his soul and which shows his initiation in that path. One will also hear a child speak on certain subjects, and express ideas which are quite different from what one would expect from a child, ideas which are perhaps even beyond the comprehension of a grown man. Yet the child speaks about it; it is his initiation. I have known a child to ask me, ‘Why must one kneel down, why must one prostrate oneself when they say that God is above?’ and another to say, ‘Why must there be one direction in which a person should look in order to worship, why should not all directions be equally good for worship?’
Many grown-up people have the fixed idea that they must perform their worship in a certain direction and not in any other, and never once in their lives have they asked themselves why. One will find grown-up people who have perhaps worshipped kneeling down all their life, and have never asked themselves why they should kneel down on the earth, when they are supposed to worship God in the heavens. Therefore to believe, to worship, to be pious, to be good, is quite different from the idea of being initiated. Initiation means emerging from the ordinary, it is rising above the conditions which are common; and this shows the maturity of the soul.
The second stage is the materialization of this initiation; and this materialization is possible with someone living on the earth. For the condition of being initiated completely is to become initiated on this plane of earth, on the physical plane where one is living and moving, and through which one is experiencing life.
People make a great many mysteries out of the name initiation, but the simple explanation of initiation is trust on the part of the pupil and confidence on the part of the initiator. I heard from my murshid, from my initiator, something which I shall never forget: ‘This friendship, this relationship which is brought about by initiation between two persons is something which cannot be broken, it is something which cannot be separated, it is something which cannot be compared with anything else in the world; it belongs to eternity.’
When this initiation takes place, it then becomes the responsibility of the initiator to think of the welfare and well-being of his pupil; and it becomes the responsibility of the initiated to be faithful and true and steady and unshaken through all tests and trials. There are some who will go to one person and be initiated, and then afterwards they go to another to be initiated, and then to a third. They might go to a hundred persons, but they will become a hundred times less, instead of a hundred times more blessed. For the object of friendship is not the making of many friends; the object is to keep friendship steady, unchanged, whole. And of all kinds of friendship, the friendship that is established by initiation is the most sacred, a friendship which must be considered beyond all other relationships in the world.
To be continued…