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Author Topic: Secrecy/Surprise in Initiations  (Read 7677 times)
Beachglass
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« Topic Start: March 28, 2007, 09:31:58 am »

In paths requiring initiations, is it important that an prospective initiate does not know exactly what will happen at the initiation ceremony?  I have this idea that the "element of surprise" is important, but I can't remember where I picked it up, or if I subconsciously invented it, so I'm wondering what you all think.  Does "surprise" matter?  And if so, why?  I would guess it increases emotional impact, but I'm sure there could be other reasons.

Along the same line, if the initiate is not supposed to know the initiation ritual, what happens if they somehow find out early?  Does this render them ineligible, or do you create a new one, or something else?
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« Reply #1: March 28, 2007, 10:03:35 am »

I've found that even if you think you know what is going to happen, there is always something there that is surprising.

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Darkhawk
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« Reply #2: March 28, 2007, 02:48:31 pm »

In paths requiring initiations, is it important that an prospective initiate does not know exactly what will happen at the initiation ceremony?

Depends on whether the initiation is a Greater Mystery or a Lesser Mystery.  (These terms I have stolen, roughly, from the Greeks.)

A Lesser Mystery is like a movie with a twist ending -- if someone spoilers the plot twist for you, it ruins the movie.  You might still be able to watch it and enjoy it, maybe study the setup for the twist, but it's really unlikely that when the twist hits you it'll get that punch in the gut, "Oh shit, that's ..." feeling.

A Greater Mystery is like sex.  You can read all about it -- the processes of what happen, how people go at it, and so on.  You can explore with fantasy and personal experimentation.  But really, to know what it's like to have sex, it takes actually experiencing it, and you can't get it all without that.

I know Jenett's group, dealing with initiations, treats them like "reading about sex"; they go through "These are the sorts of things that people do or have done in initiatory experiences" without, specifically, saying which subset of those the group does.  That way they can work out who might have issues with what they do without risking harming the experience with a "bad first time".

The thing about Greater Mysteries is that even if you know all the details, there's something that emerges from them when one runs reality experimentally; the 'surprise' is implicit in the parts.
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« Reply #3: March 28, 2007, 03:50:31 pm »

Depends on whether the initiation is a Greater Mystery or a Lesser Mystery.  (These terms I have stolen, roughly, from the Greeks.)

A Lesser Mystery is like a movie with a twist ending -- if someone spoilers the plot twist for you, it ruins the movie.  You might still be able to watch it and enjoy it, maybe study the setup for the twist, but it's really unlikely that when the twist hits you it'll get that punch in the gut, "Oh shit, that's ..." feeling.

A Greater Mystery is like sex.  You can read all about it -- the processes of what happen, how people go at it, and so on.  You can explore with fantasy and personal experimentation.  But really, to know what it's like to have sex, it takes actually experiencing it, and you can't get it all without that.

I know Jenett's group, dealing with initiations, treats them like "reading about sex"; they go through "These are the sorts of things that people do or have done in initiatory experiences" without, specifically, saying which subset of those the group does.  That way they can work out who might have issues with what they do without risking harming the experience with a "bad first time".

The thing about Greater Mysteries is that even if you know all the details, there's something that emerges from them when one runs reality experimentally; the 'surprise' is implicit in the parts.

question? when your looking back on a mystery what do you determine to discover wether something is a greater mystery or not?

and how to you pass on the "setup" for a mystery without making that mystery fail.
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« Reply #4: March 28, 2007, 04:42:39 pm »

The thing about Greater Mysteries is that even if you know all the details, there's something that emerges from them when one runs reality experimentally; the 'surprise' is implicit in the parts.

   And... sometimes After the fact... one will have an Ah-Ha moment, when the meaning of it all, falls completely into place.   Days, weeks, months, even Years later  the light might go on.  Or a slightly different slant on the mystery might abruptly make sense.

   Mea...(adding her 2 cents)
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« Reply #5: March 28, 2007, 05:18:52 pm »

In paths requiring initiations, is it important that an prospective initiate does not know exactly what will happen at the initiation ceremony?

If the initiation is a true Mystery experience, it should not matter at all if the person being initiated knows the entire ceremony backward and forward as it is the actual experience that matters (in that a true mystery can only be understood by experiencing it).

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« Reply #6: March 28, 2007, 10:13:14 pm »

question? when your looking back on a mystery what do you determine to discover wether something is a greater mystery or not?

I don't think you do.  It's a categorisation that people make and notice by how people respond to knowledge, what experiences lead them to grasp a particular Mystery, and what ones don't.

And really, I think most lesser Mysteries are probably reawsonably easy to identify, because a lot of them deal with trivial stuff -- the twist ending -- rather than that sudden, "Whoa, meaning!" thing that completely rearranges someone's head.
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« Reply #7: March 29, 2007, 12:48:46 am »

In paths requiring initiations, is it important that an prospective initiate does not know exactly what will happen at the initiation ceremony?  I have this idea that the "element of surprise" is important, but I can't remember where I picked it up, or if I subconsciously invented it, so I'm wondering what you all think.  Does "surprise" matter?  And if so, why?  I would guess it increases emotional impact, but I'm sure there could be other reasons.

I can only speak with certainty to my own group - but the element of surprise and secrecy in initiations is really only held for two reasons. One is that knowing exactly what will take place is not as meaningful without context.
Second, despite the fact that each initiation ritual is a meaningful experience, it is also fun and to have no surprises at all would take away some of the specialness of it.

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« Reply #8: March 29, 2007, 01:20:39 am »

question? when your looking back on a mystery what do you determine to discover wether something is a greater mystery or not?

It's a hard thing to pin down... lesser mysteries tend to be things that can be assimilated quickly, for me they tend to be more of the ah-ha things. Greater mysteries are like another chunk of some bigger picture that tend to get worked around much longer before they give great insights... though that isn't always true. I say it that way because when I talk to other people about some specific thing that would be considered a mystery it tends to get talked about in analogies with each person saying "yeah, it's like ... (insert analogy here).. " and it just goes on and on.


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« Reply #9: March 29, 2007, 02:38:06 am »

It's a hard thing to pin down... lesser mysteries tend to be things that can be assimilated quickly, for me they tend to be more of the ah-ha things. Greater mysteries are like another chunk of some bigger picture that tend to get worked around much longer before they give great insights... though that isn't always true.

I actually think that learning how to turn while skiing is a Greater Mystery.  It's actually my favorite Mystery-apprehension example.  Not a matter of great insight, but something that really, truly, needed to be experienced.

I've been skiing once, you see.  And before I went, my parents told me about how my father learned to ski.  He was apparently terrible for a week, completely unable to handle the basic skills, and people kept answering his "But how do you turn?!" with "Well, you kind of go down, up, down."

And he mumbled and said it made no sense and skiied and wound up turning around and going down the hill backwards again and all kinds of things, and then, one day, he got it, and said, "Ah!  Down, up, down!  I get it now!  (Why didn't anybody tell me?)"

So I had this story in my head when I went skiing.  And I puttered about, and didn't do as badly as he did, but still, I had no idea what I was doing, or how to turn, or anything, and then on my second or third attempt down the hill, I went down, up, down, and swoosh, and turned.

"Ah!  Down, up, down!  I get it now!"  And there was really no better way to explain it, either.

(And those of you who have done downhill skiing will probably nod at me and say, "Yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean", and the people who haven't will look at me funny and trust that I know what I'm talking about, and maybe will go out someday and have that moment of, "Ah!  I get it now!")
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« Reply #10: March 29, 2007, 06:22:48 am »

Ah - so it's a bit like learning to canter a horse in an English saddle.  "Do a go-Ricky with your hips".  Another mystery that has to be experienced  Grin
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Beachglass
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« Reply #11: March 29, 2007, 09:29:05 am »

If the initiation is a true Mystery experience, it should not matter at all if the person being initiated knows the entire ceremony backward and forward as it is the actual experience that matters (in that a true mystery can only be understood by experiencing it).

Not trying to be flip here, but couldn't the experience of not knowing what's coming next be part of the experience?  Smiley  I think I'm purely in the zone of the theoretical now though.
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« Reply #12: March 29, 2007, 09:34:42 am »

Depends on whether the initiation is a Greater Mystery or a Lesser Mystery.  (These terms I have stolen, roughly, from the Greeks.)

A Lesser Mystery is like a movie with a twist ending -- if someone spoilers the plot twist for you, it ruins the movie.  You might still be able to watch it and enjoy it, maybe study the setup for the twist, but it's really unlikely that when the twist hits you it'll get that punch in the gut, "Oh shit, that's ..." feeling.

A Greater Mystery is like sex.  You can read all about it -- the processes of what happen, how people go at it, and so on.  You can explore with fantasy and personal experimentation.  But really, to know what it's like to have sex, it takes actually experiencing it, and you can't get it all without that.

That makes sense; I never considered that kind of distinction.  So I guess an initiation ritual as most people think of it would be a Greater Mystery?
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« Reply #13: March 29, 2007, 02:25:28 pm »

I think the African Diaspora traditions are kept secret for several reasons.  One of the oldest reasons is the prospect of having your entire priesthood put to death by colonialists or slave holders.  There's also a concept similar to "using the lord's name in vain."  Something that comes up in warnings and tabus etc is "gossip."  Being gossiped about, you should stop gossiping, etc.  Almost like using an intimate nickname or talking about intimate acts with your lover in public.  Common sense says to reserve such sacred talk for the right moments and place instead of gossiping about it unnecessarily and devaluing it.

One reason it may be important today is that mass media allows quick theft and corruption of ceremony.  It would be easy to have ad hoc initiations based on a "for dummies" book.  There is some printed material out there, and a lot of it for some reason or another is inaccurate..  In another sense, it's like handling uranium.  Would you want your next door neighbor to "read up" on uranium and various projects and trust them to handle it in a way where you and them are both safe?
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« Reply #14: March 29, 2007, 05:35:23 pm »

Not trying to be flip here, but couldn't the experience of not knowing what's coming next be part of the experience?  Smiley  I think I'm purely in the zone of the theoretical now though.

If it is a true mystery, that should not matter at all. The surprise element (IMHO) is more about everyone else getting to have fun than it is necessary.  Knowing that you (say) get paddled with a wet palm frond while everyone intones "OOOUUUAAAHHHH" in time to a weird beat to induce the mystery experience tells you nothing about the mystery experience, nor could it as it is something that has to be experienced.
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