When I began this path, it felt like another study program that was to be completed "because it's there." Like Hillary, who gave that excuse for climbing Everest, I have used it before to climb both metaphorical mountains and real ones. When I set climbing Mt. Olympus in Greece in my head, for instance, it was just that sort of climb. About halfway up to the Throne of Zeus, however, I realized that something more transformative was occurring than simply overcoming an obstacle. So it is with the Initiate's Path in ADF.
Writing this letter now, with only one course left to finish (Trance 2), I find myself at the epiphany of the half-way point, much as I did on Olympus.
When I started, I was less interested in inner knowledge and inner spaces than I probably should have been, and more interested in the idea of being an Initiate. With the added element of everything I do for the IP counting for my eventual CTP work, there was a feeling of, "Well, I have to do it anyway, don't I?" that ran through my thoughts of the IP.
What I have learned about ADF's various study programs, though, is that they are not hoops to jump through, nor are they things that the student can simply do on a whim: the study programs involve deep experience, deep thought, and deep conversations with the self that consistently surprise and delight me. The Initiate's Path within ADF is no different.
In the past year since this Path was first consolidated into exit standards and a knowledge set was created, I have worked hard to improve my skills. Working magic and ritual on a nearly daily basis, and entering into new partnerships and contracts with the Powers have led me deeper into a sacred knowledge built upon solid study and blossoming into ecstatic experience. These are not things that can leave our souls untouched by beauty and wonder.
The greatest things that draw me to the Path of Initiation within ADF are the new horizons it offers, the detailed inner landscapes that match the outer spaces we wander through in our daily lives, and particularly the close and personal contact with the Kindreds that comes from the direct experience and interaction that initiation within ADF's ritual paradigms and symbol sets can bring. It is the first time you see the Earth Mother, the joy of sharing a meal with your patron, or the faint and passing scent of a nymph's perfume as you spend the night in trance near the river that keeps the seeker coming back for more.
It is also specifically the symbols and ritual of ADF that draw me to this Path. Over the seven years I have been in ADF, I have cultivated our symbolism within myself, and the concept of initiation within any other system seems less "needed" in my worldview. While I will always be a Chaos Magician at heart, and will always seek inititations in a variety of systems, this one is my home system: the sacred center of our rituals is reflected in my actions and in my heart.
Becoming an ADF Initiate opens a broader and yet more personal access to the cosmos as described in ADF ritual. I am fortunate to have been a Dedicant Priest when the Clergy Order Work was originally created, and I am already privy to some of the secrets that an ADF Initiate knows. What I have glimpsed of these secrets and this knowledge reminds me that deeper study is necessary, and deeper experience will bring even more mystical gnosis that I can then bring back to public ritual to enhance our Grove's work.
While an ADF Initiate can provide to the community as a solitary through things like articles about experience and knowing for the ADF website and Oak Leaves, it is primarily through the Grove that I believe I can aid and provide to the community: by doing inner work, we become closer to the Gods and Spirits around us and outside of us, and this begins to permeate our own actions when we stand at the sacred center. The Initiate, even when (perhaps particularly when) in public ritual and not alone and entering that personal connection, can bring an understanding of the way the cosmos is painted and created that someone who is not initiated may not be able to.
The work that this program has engaged me in, so different from the work of previous study programs, has done just what I believe it was designed to do: open my inner eyes to compliment my outer eyes. As I continue down this path, I hope to discover many new ways of seeing, understanding, and being.
So far, so good. . .