What Do I Mean by Initiation?

This juxtaposition of depth and height, visible at the Externsteine,1 can be found in practically all forms of initiation because it is essentially a path that leads from the depths to the heights—or, to express it in two concepts used to describe initiation, from catharsis (purification) to photismos (enlightenment).

The path of purification, which involves hard work, gradually ascends toward enlightenment. This brief description indicates there are not just two extremes but also a path leading gradually from the depths to the heights. This gradual path involves purification, as the word catharsis implies, and sacrifices must be made. On this path, the soul is gradually transformed and the astral life purified.

In antiquity, there were three steps towards initiation: catharsis, photismos, and teletè (goal, fulfilment). In his classical texts on the heavenly hierarchies, Dionysius the Areopagite (or perhaps a later Dionysius) connected these three steps to the three groups of angelic beings. After the lower hierarchies (Angels, Archangels, Archai) have brought about purification, the middle hierarchies (Exousiai, Dynameis, Kyriotetes) accompany the soul to enlightenment—while the highest hierarchies (Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim) bring about fulfilment.

From Bastiaan Baan, Old and New Mysteries. Floris Books 2014.

Graphic Sofia Lismont

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  1. Externsteine (steine meaning stones) is a distinctive sandstone formation located in the Teutoburger Forest, Germany. It is sometimes referred to as the German Stonehenge and is considered to be an old Germanic center of initiation. — Editor’s note.

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