Initiation: a qabalistic view

Wiccan Rede * Autumn 1983 by Andy Highfield

I am sure that many readers will have found Merlin’s recent article on initiation and the Craft of great interest. This topic is certainly an ‘evergreen’, and rarely does one engage a new student in conversation without the word being mentioned in some context or other! Some seem to look towards ‘initiation’ as an end in itself, a view which Merlin quite rightly warned against. It is, indeed, merely the first step of a new beginning.

Whilst the situation as regards Wicca is relatively straightforward, the opposite is true of a number of Qabalistic ‘Orders’, ‘Lodges’ or ‘Temples’, some of whom employ a very complex ‘Grade’ system. These ‘Esoteric Grades’ are generally based upon Planetary or Elemental concepts, this latter systems was employed within the Golden Dawn, and later by Aleister Crowley in his own order, the A.A. It must be understood that whilst such grading of students may help the teaching process within a group, they in NO WAY reflect the TRUE status of an individual at Inner Levels of being. Titles such as ‘Neophyte’, ‘Adeptus Minor’, ‘Adeptus Major’ and ‘Magister Templi’ are merely outer forms and are a long way from Absolute Inner Realities. And as anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the history of magic will be aware, arguments over impressive sounding titles have on occasions led directly to the disintegration of several well known groups.

All of which should serve to remind us that the OUTER FORM of initiation, whatever the tradition, is quite valueless unless matched by an INWARD shift of perception. Now the world Qabalah derives from the Hebrew root QBL which means, quite simply, ‘to receive’. This has generally been interpreted as indicating the transmission of a verbal, and unwritten, esoteric or mystical tradition. Much the same process, in fact, as that outlined by Merlin in his recent article. It is not, however, the whole story. Whilst we should certainly not underestimate the value of person-to-person contact as a major factor in ‘initiation’, it must be remembered that it is INNER results which we are seeking. We should not therefore rule out the possibility of forging our own valid, and direct, INNER links to the source of our tradition. We are referring, of course, to what we sometimes choose to call ‘Inner Plane Contacts’, ‘Hidden Masters’ or ‘Secret Chiefs’.

In esoteric circles inner plane teachers, or ‘masters’ are generally defined as ex-incarnate human beings who have obtained the full initiation of Chesed, thereby permitting them to ‘break the wheal of karma’ and, if they so choose, cross the abyss via Daath to Binah. These individuals, who are exceptionally highly developed by any standards, elect however, to remain within the sphere of Chesed to instruct those who follow. This, off course, is a sacrifice every bit as painful as that of Tiphareth, if not more so. In any event, they sacrifice their own continued progress for the sake of others. Their prime function is to transmit, via Tiphareth, Hod and Yesod, those Great Cosmic Truths which we must learn if we are to attain their stature. They clearly cannot provide information about things which are beyond their own understanding (They would be the first to tell you that they are far from omnipotent), although on occasions they might act as intermediaries for greater powers.

They ‘appear’ generally as historical of mythical personages, although this is not at all representative of their ‘true’ form. It is convenience assumed for the benefit of the ‘earth end’ of the communications chain, and is a function performed via Hod and Yesod.

Lest it be thought that these ‘inner plane teachers’ are a phenomena peculiar to Western Occultism, it ought to be noted that such communicating entities have a long and very distinguished history in the orthodox Jewish Qabalah, being known in that system as ‘Maggids’. Indeed, many of the most authoratitive Qabalistic practitioners were in frequent contact with Maggids, and these semi-angelic teachers have inspired a number of important Qabalistic texts. They parallel in some respects the disincarnate ‘saints’ of Roman Catholicism, but in other respects differ markedly. It is especially interesting to note that Maggids are also termed ‘saints’ in the orthodox Qabalah.

This matter of ‘inner plane teachers’ is an interesting subject, and is worthy of some detailed research. To the inevitable sceptic let it be said that in no way can these communicating beings be dismissed as ‘useless products of an over-active imagination’ as some have alleged. Their occurrence in many widely differing cultures and locations surely indicates that they are simply products of the imagination, I think ample evidence exist to prove that they are far from useless.

Not only have these Maggids in their Western manifestation as ‘Masters’ assisted in the production of a number of important texts, one example which instantly springs to mind being Dion Fortune’s ‘The Cosmic Doctrine’ (Aquarian Press 1976), the voluminous works of Alice A. Bailey are likewise attributed to the influence of these ‘Invisible Masters’ who have also played a key role in the formation of many esoteric lodges and societies.

Whilst a good deal of nonsense has been written upon this subject, two books in particular throw a very considerable amount of light on the ways which ‘Masters’ sometimes manifest. The first of these is by the eminent psychologist Dr. C. G. Jung, and is a record of his own personal relationship with an ‘inner teacher’ whom he called ‘Philemon’. Jung engaged in conversations with this being, whom he regarded as representing ‘superior insight’, and his record of these ‘inner transactions’, published as ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ makes absolutely fascinating reading. The second work of relevance is Edwin C. Steinbrecher’s ‘The Inner Guide Meditation'(Aquarian press 1982), a book which synthesizes techniques from various specialities into a system of ‘guided enlightenment’. This latter work, especially, present some interesting ideas relating to practical applications of the ‘inner teacher’ technique.

The insights presented by both works, although not necessarily in complete agreement with traditional occult theory, are valid nonetheless and should be studied by all those who profess an interest in the subject. At the very last it will become apparent that such techniques offer a readily accessible and effective method of self-analysis and psychotherapy, regardless of whether or not one accepts that they may posses even greater potential.

Wicca is interesting in that it rarely acknowledges the possibility of ‘Inner Plane Teachers’ devoted to transmitting its own Inner Traditions. Yet my own experiences have convinced me beyond doubt that such do indeed exist. This then raises a number of questions. Can one be initiated by an Inner Plane Teacher alone? Or does one also require contact with a ‘physical’ teacher or coven? Can, indeed, a ‘physical’ coven be regarded as ‘authentic’, even if it has perfect ‘credentials’ on paper, if it does not form part of an Inner-Outer Plane circuit? These are complex issues, and I do not claim to have found all the answers. But ‘Initiates’, of whatever tradition, would do well to reflect upon the issues they raise.