The Inner Culture Activity
The Path of Initiation
Initiation means taking an initiative in a direction which is not always understood by others; therefore, there is a need for courage as well as the wish to advance spiritually, which may not seem to be the way for each and every one. The first concern is to guard against one's faith being shaken by opposing and discouraging influences. If the whole world says that it is the wrong path, the initiate replies "It is the right path." If it is said that it shall take a thousand years, the initiate replies "I have patience to persist." In Persian, this is referred to as the work of the "Baz", the wayfarer of Heaven. On this mystical path, steadiness, courage and patience are essential, as well as trust in the teacher by whose hand one is guided, together with a keen understanding of discipline. How many in the world lack trust, not only in others but even in themselves? If one cannot trust oneself, how then could one trust others? Trust is a great power and lack of trust is weakness. Even if there might be an apparent loss as the result of one's trust, still the power gained thereby is great.
The path of initiation means not only study, but also the recognition that the goal is to discover God within, touching thereby the source of all things. It is toward this end that one strives with the help of the power of initiation, and it is from within that all inspiration is received. It is expected of the initiate that the practices entrusted be done regularly with heart and soul, and that the teachings be treasured within the heart, where they may deepen, just as seekers for thousands of years have contemplated the sacred word with deepest devotion. Initiation is not a secret act; it is a sacred trust given by teacher to disciple and by disciple to teacher. There should be no wall of separation, and if there is one, it must first be removed before one may hope to remove the wall between worshipper and object of worship. The deep impressions received from the spiritual characteristics of the initiator form a model within the consciousness of the initiate, whose personality in time begins to reflect the very ideal of devotion. When the heart thereby is emptied of all else and becomes attuned to the Divine Presence, this same Presence reveals itself as the very same power which was once thought to be one's own. This explains why devotion is at the same time the cry of the heart of the devotee, and the breath which brings to life the object of devotion.
The object of concentration inspires insofar as the heart is open to its message, but however inspiring that message might be it still has no impact on the heart whose feeling for devotion has not yet been awakened. The effect of a feeling heart can be clearly seen in the lives of great souls, whose deeds and creative accomplishments have been profoundly inspired through their admiration and devotion for precious examples of the Divine Ideal. Progress is dependent upon patience, together with eagerness to learn from both sweet and bitter experiences, such as life's tests, the tests of the initiator and those tests which, knowingly or unknowingly we place before ourselves in the midst of life's puzzling ways. Those who have really accomplished noble things have always proceeded with humbleness, greeting at each step forward those who have reached beyond their own goals. Spiritual progress comes with a change of one's point of view, and each step taken upward on the ladder is a new initiation. At each rise, though, one risks being pulled downward again, after which the whole journey must be redone, and at each step the fall is greater.
Accomplishment on the path of initiation is obtained through three stages of inner development: unconditional receptivity, deepening of the understanding and consideration of the law of cause and effect in regard to one's destiny as well as to one's duty to others. In the consideration of others is one's real self expressed, for love's expression is consideration, and love without consideration has no fragrance. Consideration, which is none other than the path of discipleship, is an attitude which is cultivated in attunement to the music of the heart. If we were to ask ourselves why we are born in human garb rather than remaining as angels on the angelic plane, perhaps the answer might be that we are here in order to live life fully, in consideration for others and for all things.
There are three main types of initiation. One is a natural unfoldment of the soul, an expansion of consciousness which happens without any reason as far as human understanding can perceive. This is called the Grace of God. Another type of initiation comes as the result of great suffering. Like a flash, it changes in a single instant one's whole vision of life. The world has not changed, but like a string stretched by the tuning peg, the initiate has been raised to a higher pitch. The third type of initiation is that received through an initiator. If anything might be lost at that moment, it is not one's own point of view, but one's preconceived ideas. Besides, when looking at things from another's point of view, one enlarges one's own, which becomes thereby twofold: that of the other as well as one's own point of view. As of the moment of initiation, all past remorse and sorrow are effaced from thought. There is no reason to grieve further; a new step has been taken and all cruel memories have been left behind. Renunciation is not asked for, but hope and courage are welcomed as one sets forth on the journey toward the goal with the great family of seekers in the caravan of inner realisation.
Initiation in the Sufi Movement offers double blessings. It is a blessing to become part of this most ancient school of inner culture, of which traces are found in every venerable spiritual tradition, and at the same time it is a blessing to partake of the Message of today, the Divine Call, a channel through which flows living water offered to the whole of humanity to drink. The Message comes in the teachings offered, which are treasured, like mantras, as sacred ideals. If these words appear to be simple, yet there will come a time that simple things unfold into mountains of truth. This may be seen in the Sufi emblem, which suggests a stream of inspiration flashing forth from the heart, while the wings illustrate the determination of the initiate to contemplate higher thoughts and live a virtuous life. The Sufi Message brings recognition of the Divine in each; it is the light of truth thrown upon all religions; it is the cry of humanity calling for unity beyond all distinctions; it is a Message of brotherhood and sisterhood inspired by the all-pervading ideals of Love.