An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
Initiation is both a process and an event. As an event, it implies the commencement or the beginning of some enterprise. It may denote entry into a position, a fraternity, or an Order, but it can also represent the starting point of a process.
Initiation rituals offer (actual or symbolic) indignities that are acted out upon the person of the candidate (the individual who is being initiated). Why would a candidate be made to suffer such humiliations?
The spiritual path is filled with crisis events that expose the aspirant to his or her illusions and weaknesses, and these are usually uncomfortable, terrifying affairs. Initiatory rites simply portray these events. Having been symbolically subjected to these terrors, it is then expected that the candidate will subsequently undergo them in reality, either within his or her own consciousness, or externally in the "real" world. If the "Initiators" truly possess the required energetic capability, then such a rite can indeed propel a candidate forward on his or her path.
On the other hand, many schools of thought maintain that an initiation ceremony should not be conferred upon a candidate until he or she has already undergone the corresponding process in consciousness and/or in life. In this case, the ritual represents a confirmation and a commemoration of the advancement previously attained by the aspirant.
Both of the above scenarios are realistically applicable and each one potentially contains the element of truth.
So, when a candidate is blindfolded and bound, this represents a state of helplessness and inability to do anything about it. When he or she is led three times around a circle, or circumambulated around the interior of a temple, this portrays a wandering in search of truth. When he or she is immersed in water, or has water sprinkled upon them, this depicts the amniotic fluid present at birth and a rebirth into a new (higher) state of being.
By the time this lofty symbolism degenerates to the level of the typical collegiate fraternity or sorority initiation rite, the indignities usually include throwing raw eggs at the candidate and the spiritual significance has been lost. But all these ceremonies originate in the definition first given above.
As a process, initiation is an ongoing journey into (higher) self-awareness. It is called The Path of Initiation, and is marked by a series of crisis events, or initiations, that lead ever upward, onward and inward.
Spiritual Initiation does not include rites of entry into collegiate fraternities, business organizations, and political office. It is the process and the critical events that exemplify the graded progress of the aspirant toward full spiritual awareness. The earlier grades are typically ego-based, resulting in much confrontation and confusion. The middle stages involve coming to terms with true self-awareness and the expiation of karma. The higher levels exemplify the realm of the Master and the process of teaching others.
Lineage refers to the line of adepts, teachers or initiates who have "gone before" the present aspirant, and upon whose energies and teachings the candidate relies. A solid, viable lineage provides inspiration as well as security for the individual member. Many lineages can be traced back to ancient times. Even the Black Lodge has its lineage.
Courses and workshops, backed up by no viable lineage, that purport to teach ancient mysteries, but are actually based on the teacher's reading of books or previous enrollment in similar courses, abound in metaphysical bookstores. You will possibly even get a certificate in Shamanism or a Doctor of Divinity degree. Buyer beware!
External Initiation is a process, with corresponding events, that is bestowed by a guru (teacher), an Order, or a group upon a candidate. Initiation fees always apply! Much of this activity is spiritually valid, some of it is of "mixed" content, and a lot of it is outright fraud.
Internal Initiation is the process, with corresponding events, that is experienced internally by an aspirant, with or without reference to any external rites. In other words, this is the real thing.
Self Initiation is the process, with corresponding events, that is set in motion by the individual candidate. A few schools of thought actually provide written initiation rituals for the aspirant to administer to himself or herself. If properly presented, and genuinely linked to a viable lineage, this approach can be quite effective.
Empowerment is a particularly interesting form of initiation in which a level of consciousness, or a specific power such as healing ability, is transmitted directly from a practitioner to an aspirant. There is usually no "labor of preparation" involved and, immediately after the transmission, the aspirant finds that he or she is miraculously transformed and is otherwise able to apply these transmitted energies to other people.
These procedures are known in many cultures and are often linked to ancient lineages. Tibetan Wang ("empowerment") ceremonies offer what is perhaps the shining example of this art.
In our modern society, the best known application of this method is probably Reiki, which calls its transmissions "attunements." Reiki has become somewhat muddled mainly due to competition for the (often exorbitant) fees and infighting over inconsequential matters.
The diehard troublemakers of this system are represented by the older-school "Reiki Masters" (a very pompous title) who foolishly paid ten-thousand dollars for their third degree mastership, and now find it necessary to condemn and belittle later-school "independent master teachers" simply because "they can't be real because they don't charge enough!"
Some older-school "Masters" have also been known to circulate vicious, dire warnings about "dark elements" having been introduced into many newer lines of transmission (again, because they offer attunements at reduced fees). The Black Lodge is there alright and, just like many churches and the political arena, it is firmly entrenched in the old school. The original (oldest-school) had but one degree and charged no fees at all!
Another contemporary empowerment system is Sirius, a direct, unbroken lineage of the Tibetan Wang. Sirius is much more powerful than Reiki, and is generally much less expensive.
< Link to Sirius Empowerment System
An Initiation Fee is always required of a candidate. It represents a "sacrifice" on the part of the aspirant, which is a reflection of the true, internal process wherein the old ways must be surrendered.
It has been observed that even in the procedures of self-initiation, whereby the candidate establishes his or her own linkage with higher consciousness through self-administered rites, the natural powers-that-be arrange for some valuable item to be taken away, either through loss or theft.
There was an amusing document circulated, somewhere around 1989, that stated, "When you sign the Oath of a Probationer, your life will fall into ruin. Your bank account will be closed. You will lose your job. Your dog will die. Your mate will leave you." Etcetera.
What makes this anecdote not amusing is that it is often true! The aspirant to spiritual enlightenment will find that they have to leave it all behind. The only things that are not removed are those possessions and concepts to which one has no attachment. Eventually everything, including the sense of self, must fade away in the face of the Light of illumination.
A common concept among many people is that no one should charge anything for spiritual teachings or services. This is because they want to get something for free, and it is a selfish, unreasonable expectation.
Any teacher or group has the right to expect reasonable remuneration for their time and expenses. Teachers must maintain a residence, pay utility bills and eat. Groups must maintain a temple, pay utility bills, and (often) feed their students. The only question here is what is reasonable?
Dr. Usui, the founder of Reiki, originally delivered his system in a single "attunement" for free. After a heart-wrenching experience, he discovered that recipients did not appreciate the procedure and made no use of the energy. He therefore resolved to charge a fee, the exact amount of which nobody seems to have remembered. After his death, a subsequent Reiki practitioner divided the system into three degrees and assigned the following fee structure: First degree - $150. Second degree - $500. Third degree "Reiki Master" - $10,000! Traditional Reiki Masters still charge these same fees today. Other, more reasonable, practitioners will deliver the same attunements for around $60, $75, and $300.
Alice Bailey, the well-known author, used to give free public lectures (circa 1930). She noted that attendance was not high and the audience appeared to be listless. So she started charging fifty-cents per lecture. Attendance improved and the listeners appeared to be much more attentive.
Muriel "Isis" Dorner (circa 1975) of The Lighted Way, charged $3.00 for a public lecture and $5.00 for a group instruction session and for a monthly Full Moon Ceremony. If a student had no money (and many pretended to be broke, while complaining that "spiritual teachings should be free"), they were allowed to run up a credit account. So many people took advantage of this policy that the practice had to be abandoned. Muriel also charged $50 for a one-hour, personal consultation.
The "legendary" Jack Schwarz of the Aletheia Foundation (circa 1972) charged $15 for a two-hour class session and $40 for a one-hour, personal consultation. Later (circa 1990), an all-day class session was $95 and a one-hour consultation was $300.
For many years, any given weekend seminar presented by a well-known personality or group, held in a meeting room of a fancy hotel, would cost $300. By the way, the hotel charge (circa 1988) was fifty-cents per chair, per day!
A journey to visit Sai Baba in India (circa 1990) would cost you a plane fare, but to have a room in his Ashram was $1.00 per day, with an additional fifty-cents per day for food. Fees were never charged for personal or group interviews.
Kevin Ryerson, the well-known channel popularized by Shirley MacLaine (circa 1985), would require a whopping $800 for a consultation. This is now getting into the unreasonably high fee realm.
The founder of the Alpha empowerment lineage that preceded the Sirius empowerment system, originally received his empowerments for free from the Tibetan Lama Xin (circa 1985). He then went on to offer empowerments that started at $150 but ended up nine levels later at $2500 each. My student, Frater Estar, received the entire series of empowerments equivalent to $18,000. Maat would take monthly weekend trips to distant cities and come home with $25,000 in cash in his pocket - after paying expenses! A bit expensive and highly-profitable, eh?
The current Sirius empowerment system offers empowerments for $60 to $75 per level. They are stronger than Reiki, and the same as Alpha (but perhaps a bit more yang).
A group of six Tibetan Lamas came to Los Angeles in 1983. They offered personally-administered Tara empowerments to a group of attendees for a "recommended donation" of $10. You were supposed to present the head Lama with a silk scarf before he activated your third eye, but I knew nothing of this custom. Yet I received the empowerment, graciously given without the benefit of a scarf. However, I did pay my $10 fee.
The point in revealing the above fee structures (and the list could easily continue) is to demonstrate the wide range of fees that can be charged. So what is reasonable? I have devised a general rule-of-thumb list regarding fees, based on my own observations and personal feelings. Perhaps you can apply it to your situation:
Lectures and seminars should approximate the tuition fees charged by adult educational institutions, which is about the same as the fees authorized by the medical establishments CPT-code structure for group activities: $10 - $15 per hour.
Expeditions and adventures should approximate the same fees given above, plus the cost of transportation, food, and other expenses.
Seminars and workshops resulting in the issuance of a certificate that is applicable to your practice or further professional use should be about: $25 per hour.
Readings and consultations offered by beginners and unknown practitioners (like at psychic fairs) should be the same fees charged for lectures: $10 - $15 per hour.
Readings and consultations offered by experienced, proven practitioners should approximate the professional fees charged by medical doctors (for an office visit), acupuncturists and massage therapists (for a one-hour session), and auto-repair shops (per hour labor charge), which is about the same fees authorized by the medical establishments CPT-code fee structure for basic professional services: $50 - $75 per hour.
Readings and consultations offered by well-known, famous practitioners should not exceed the professional fees charged by medical specialists (per procedure), and reasonable attorneys (per hour charge): $300.
Empowerments and attunements offered by proven systems that increase your personal abilities should run around $60 to $75, which is equivalent to an office visit with a licensed, health care professional.
Initiation fees into Orders should be similar to the fees charged for empowerments and attunements (after all, they're the same thing). Annual dues may then apply, but should reasonably cover the expenses of the organization and not lead to personal profit for the leaders.
Empowerments and attunements offered by proven systems that essentially franchise you to go on and provide the same service for others (the giving of empowerments) should never exceed $500.
Fee Schedule Recommendations effective 2008.
Anything equivalent to, or less than, the recommended fees is reasonable, and usually indicates that the provider is not really profit-motivated.
Anything more than the recommended fees is unreasonable. Look around - you can probably find a better offer.