So what’s all this “initiation” stuff about, anyway?
Initiation is not a word one often hears in everyday conversation. Other than a certain gym which calls the first installment of their monthly dues an “initiation fee”, it’s just not used very much. So just what does it refer to, and why are Freemasons always using it?
Simply put, initiation is an act or ceremony that marks the passage into a new state. Moving, for example, from the life of a bachelor to that of a husband is often marked by a wedding ceremony or an “initiation into marriage”. Life is full of initiations- just consider graduation, inauguration, and baptism ceremonies, and how they mark the end of one state and the beginning of another.
Sacred initiation is distinguishable by its insistence upon introspection and its instilling of new aspirations or ideals which are intended to be carried on into the future.
Freemasonry uses ceremonies of initiation for this reason. Our beautiful ceremonies induce a sense of wonder and connection to something higher. Leaving the rushing, draining, sometimes aimless bustle of the materialistic and brutally selfish jungle of the usual- for just a few hours of immersion in the unusual but wholesome (and somehow familiar) ancient spiritual drama is enlivening.
Tradition, in its role of teacher, passing knowledge down from person to person by their “remembering” and helping others to “remember” is always present. Tradition is that which has kept its original and transcendent nature intact.
The art of initiation has been present in human society as far back as the ancient world and probably longer. The ancient rites of Eleusis, Samothrace, Cybele, Orpheus, Dionysus, Mithras and Isis still engender a sense of wonder and mystery.
Freemasonry carries on this tradition for numerous reasons. A “mysterious, secret rite” is something most people have never experienced. Initiation vividly marks an occasion in the mind; and since an enormous amount of information (both obvious, and less so- but occurring to the mind over time) is given to the participant, they also serve to remind him of what he witnessed and learned.
The traditions and lessons of the fraternity are valuable and life changing, steeped in centuries of symbolism and study. This is why the primary purpose of Masonry is to “make Masons”, to pass-on this inheritance of wisdom.
What happens after initiation is equally valuable, of course. After a member is inducted into the craft he begins the building of true friendship, leadership skills, presentation skills, people skills, and by necessity the search for understanding; and this is where the real value of being a Freemason is discovered.
“Initiation in Freemasonry” first appeared on ClaremontLodge.org 9.23.17, written by Dru Wood.