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‘To die as oneself', the highest virtue of an initiate
By Athos A. Altomonte
Before we can talk about initiatory virtues we should explain what initiation and initiatory identity are.
There are different opinions on initiation. Some are symbolic; they last the time of a ceremony and only require the physical presence of the postulant. Some are integral, slow and complex, because they imply the transformation of the being, who ‘dies as himself'. He doesn't physically die, but he lets the parts of his mind and his conscience emotionally and passionally linked to the animal nature die. It is the ‘profane' part that dims and devalues the subtle conscience. The occult teaching of the Room of the Lost Steps is to abandon oneself, one's previous thoughts and feelings.
The integral version of the initiation, therefore, is independent from any symbolic deed; it means to operate an inner process that ‘transforms base metals into gold', where the former are the allegory of the feelings of the lower nature.
Intellect is the instrument of ‘non-attachment'. Through strong and conscious intelligence we can get rid of a conscience devoted to satisfy the physical-animal nature. It is not a moral effect; it is written everywhere that initiation starts by transforming one's own metals. The consequence of this postulate is the abandonment of oneself in order to gain a new way of being and thinking, without links to ‘the way we were'. This detachment must be real, though, rather than based on words.
The method of choosing by elimination
To be, not to be and to become is a matter of choices. To choose between words and deeds is an element that reveals the identity of the person who makes these choices. In the instance of initiation, the man who has chosen the symbolic version is surprised by the strong commitment of the man who has chosen the integral version. This already rough sea is confused even more by the people who transform initiation into trade.
Therefore I think that to establish ‘ability and consistency' of an initiate is not a viable attitude. It is an exercise of uncertain and slippery abstraction, especially for those who use myths and legends as fundaments. It would be safer to establish what an initiate is not. This is the method of choosing by elimination , simplified in the sentence: ‘ it is not this, it is not that '.
If we exclude all that he is not, we are left with what we were looking for, even though we didn't know exactly what it was.