Viewpoint: Initiation into the One

Printed in the  Spring 2020  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Hebert, Barbara"Viewpoint: Initiation into the One " Quest 108:2, pg 12-13

Barbara Hebert

IBarbara Hebertnitiation is a topic of fascination to many. We may reasonably wonder about the basis for such interest. Some individuals may want to receive initiation in order to acquire power or knowledge, hoping to learn the secrets of the universe or acquire psychic or supernatural abilities. On the other hand, perhaps the fascination runs much deeper. It may be because on some level we recognize that, as souls, we are on a spiritual journey and have an inner awareness that there is much more to us and to our journey than simply this physical life.

Annie Besant writes about initiation:

It means an expansion of consciousness. Initiation itself is a certain series of events through which the [hu]man passes; actual events and experiences taking a certain amount of time, not a vague indefinite series of feelings, but actual communications and thoughts and actions gone through by a [hu]man out of the physical body, in the presence of a great assembly of the Masters. The result is that the [hu]man becomes conscious of a new world, as though some great new sense had been given . . . which opened . . . a new world . . . As a [hu]man born blind might know the world by hearing, taste, touch, but if [the] eyes were opened would see a new world . . . not dreamed of stretching around . . . on every side, so is it with the [hu]man who, having passed through the great ceremony of Initiation, comes back into [the] body, into the mortal world . . . Another world is around [the individual], a new phase of consciousness belongs to [that person]. [The person] sees, where before [s/he] was blind. [The person] knows, where before [s/he] only hoped or guessed. 

The teachings of Theosophy indicate that our spiritual journey will allow us—or perhaps more accurately, push us—to grow, thus increasing our sense of personal and universal awareness. As we travel the spiritual path, every time we surmount an obstacle we grow a tiny bit. Eventually these tiny bits of growth combine to bring us to a totally new stage of consciousness.

Geoffrey Hodson writes:

When we are conscious solely in this . . . material and mortal aspect of our nature, we are temporarily unconscious of both our divinity and unity with God. As our evolution proceeds, we gradually rediscover this lost knowledge of oneness with the Deity. This is the ultimate secret of life. The salvation of [humanity], following [its] so-called fall, is an ascent into full experience of the fact that God’s image lies at [each hu]man’s very core.

For the goal of human evolution is the standard of perfection described in Christianity as “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” This implies the attainment of a divine state of omnipotence—or perfected and resistless will; of omnipresence—or perfected and all-embracing love; and of omniscience—or perfected and all-inclusive knowledge. Furthermore, and most importantly, the attainment of this perfection is absolutely certain for every person. 

Put simply, initiation, as described in much of the literature, is an expansion of consciousness. This expansion provides a greater understanding, not just from a cognitive perspective but also from an experiential one, of the unity of all beings. It seems to me that the true wisdom gained through each successive initiation pertains to the reality of the essential unity of all life. We are not separate from one another, as we appear to be; rather we are like the various colors that are dispersed when a white light shines through a prism. We look like different aspects, but at our root we emanate from the One Being.

At this point in our lives, we may understand the concept of the unity of all life intellectually; that is, we have the knowledge in our physical brains, and we believe it. But with each successive initiation, the cognitive component slips away until we fully experience the reality of what it means to be one with all others.

It is difficult to imagine how glorious it must be to experience unity, if only because the personality and the physical brain are not part of that experience. Initiation goes beyond the physical realm into the realm of the soul and ultimately into the realm of the One, thus empowering, even compelling, us to dedicate ourselves more deeply to working for humanity.

When we talk about working for humanity, we are talking about raising the consciousness of all beings. At the same time, as I have mentioned in previous Viewpoints, in order to work for humanity, we must work on ourselves. As we change and grow in conscious awareness through observation and effort, we are impacting all of humanity. As one unified whole, any time one aspect changes, the whole must change, even minutely. As each of us makes tiny changes in our consciousness, we are changing all of humanity, even though our contribution is so infinitesimally small that we can’t see it.

With each increase in consciousness, we gain a greater sense of responsibility. More awareness equals more obligation. As we begin to see the world more clearly, we also begin to see our responsibility more clearly. This responsibility ultimately requires self-sacrifice. The self is sacrificed because it disappears. There is no self—there is only one whole. Initiation is giving up the self, bit by bit, until at the final initiation, there is no longer a sense of a separate self; there is only a sense of the One.

Therefore an individual looking toward initiation in order to gain knowledge or power may find it, but perhaps not with the anticipated outcome. What is truly received through various initiations is the recognition of our obligation to serve humanity. The knowledge gained is the increasing experience and awareness of the unity of life. The power gained is the loss of the separate self and all of the personal attachments of that separate self.

As Hodson indicates, all of us will ultimately experience initiations, as well as the expansion of consciousness inherent in them. It will happen at some point. Desiring initiation would seemingly slow the process rather than expedite it. On the other hand, an intentional focus on personal growth while helping others as much as possible would accelerate the movement.

Theosophists are encouraged to study, meditate, and serve. We are encouraged to listen to our own inner voice and use our discernment as we walk the spiritual path. The thoughts expressed here are simply my reflections at this point in time. I’m wondering about yours. What are your thoughts about initiation and movement on the spiritual path?


Besant, Annie. Initiation: The Perfecting of Man, Chicago: Theosophical Press, 1923.

Hodson, Geoffrey. “The Spiritual Self and Its Goal of Perfection”;; accessed Jan. 5. 2020.

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