by Paul Robear and Laura Lee
Initiation can be a loaded term with nuanced and multiple meanings, as many powerful concepts are. In the context of Ritual Postures, we use the term initiation to denote the transition from the known into the unknown. Initiation marks one’s entry into the larger realm of mystery.
Initiation is that shift of consciousness that takes us beyond our comfortable, known world. We have crossed the boundary line and we have changed along with our view of the world. With transcendence comes transformation.
As with our most meaningful breakthroughs, it takes something powerful to trigger that shift. It can happen through a series of serendipitous events. It can happen spontaneously. Earlier cultures so valued this shift that they did not leave it to chance or happenstance. To willingly make that transition from our ordinary reality into the non-ordinary realms necessitates a life changing event or trigger. Within rituals and ceremonies are catalysts, embedded to trigger the appropriate shift of consciousness.
The key insights of CI’s founder, anthropologist Dr. Felicitas Goodman, were derived from her observations of the rituals of our early ancestors the world over: A physiological shift accompanies and supports the shift of consciousness, and can be the trigger to achieve altered states of consciousness.
In Where the Spirits Ride the Wind, Dr Goodman writes:
“Merely talking, falling into a worshipful mood, feeling ‘transcendent,’ ‘numinous,’ or ‘oceanic,’ or whatever other pompous words are listed in the dictionary, simply will not do. Instead humans, if they have the urgent necessity or desire to squeeze through the chinks in that wall, need to change the very functioning of their bodies in a most radical way.”
One of the oldest and most reliable means of making that shift is through ritual. Of course there are myriad rituals designed for myriad purposes. It may be surprising to us today that a specific and seemingly simple ritual can so effectively unlock the door between our ordinary everyday reality and the Alternate Reality. Yet humankind has a long and successful track record with ritual. And it was her study of the ritual practice of ancient hunter-gather cultures for the purpose of stepping across this threshold that led to a short list of what they all had in common. There, Dr. Goodman reasoned, lay the essence of that ritual which unlocks the door between the worlds.