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Farwerck on initiation

Here I present you a text that was published in Bouwsteenen 1/2 (first issue of second year), 1926. It gives a nice idea of how Farwerck approaches spirituality (to use a vague term). He refers to a range of different authors and seems to refer to his own spiritual development. As before, translation is not too easy. Farwwerck’s Dutch is cluttered with many sentences within sentences. The English gives an idea of his writing style.


We express our feelings, thoughts, and experiences in various ways, either because we want to bring them out to achieve a particular goal or because we are driven to do so by an inner urge. Consciously or unconsciously we use different means to express ourselves; through our posture and gestures, through our creations and through sounds.

Of the latter, words often seem to us to be the best means of communicating to our fellow men of what lives within us. And to a certain extent this is also correct; the more concrete what we want to communicate, the more the usefulness of words becomes apparent as means of transmission. However, the more abstract our thoughts, the more subtle our feelings, the more intimate our experiences, the less able words are to express them.

If we try to do it anyway, we run the risk of not being understood. For man understands in the full sense of the word only understands what lives in his own consciousness, what has become a living truth to him, or what had developed as such. Someone without a sense of art will understand nothing about art; will consider it useless. Only when, and as he develops this sense of art, will he begin to understand some of the expressions of our greatest artists.

Our striving to express ourselves in words causes there to be many words which have a profound meaning to many, because they express what their whole life culminates in, while for others they are only hollow or half-understood sounds. Let us take the word “God” for example. For some this is a word without content, something ridiculous, a handed down form from a time when mankind did not know as much as in our enlightened age. For most it is the expression for something sublime, for the highest that they can imagine. But there are still major differences for this category. What a grand difference there is between the concept of God of a simple, faithful mother and that of the great mystics of all ages! And yet both use the same word.

Just as, then, the word “God” is an expression for concepts which, although aligned, yet differ so widely from each other, the word “initiation” can also be interpreted in different ways.

For many, to be initiated means to acquire a certain kind or a certain amount of knowledge. But acquiring knowledge is not the essence of initiation, although it is usually a result of it.

For others it is a ceremony through which one is included in a certain group. This is sometimes the case, but it is not necessary and therefore incidental.

For others, initiation is a kind of consecration, a sacred act, through which the initiate inwardly enters a certain state. This definition is closest to reality. The interior entering into a certain state of the candidate through initiation is something that always happens during initiation, but it is not all.

What then is initiation? If you expected, dear reader, to see expressed in a single sentence what initiation exactly is, then we must disappoint you. For words are unable, unless by a long description, and then only by approximation, to convey what initiation actually is. And this is because in its innermost being initiation is an experience, a spiritual life experience, which can only be understood by those who went through it themselves or who are ripe to undergo it.

It is with initiation as with experiences of any kind. They are difficult to put into words and the simplest description is the best. How gladly the elderly would not share their life experience with the young, and how are they only partially successful! The young people, who have not yet had the same experiences, hear the story, understand it too, but they do not understand, really grasp it, until later, undergoing similar experiences, they fully realize what the elders meant by their statements “.

Thus, although the concept of initiation in its full scope cannot be expressed, it is possible to shed some light on this subject by description and comparison, and this is what we want to try to do.

We have likened initiation to experience.

As experiences give a deeper insight into life, so do initiations. Every initiation gives a deeper insight; the higher the stage of initiation, the greater the Wisdom that results from it.

There is therefore not a single initiation. There are certain series of initiations which assist man in his spiritual growth.

The life of the common man is fairly even. Now and then a shock: a little one more often, which prevents them from getting completely absorbed in the material side of existence. A child a develops fairly rapidly to a certain level, then there is a very slow progressive development with the result that at the end of life the mental level is as high or only slightly higher than at the beginning.

Some are more zealous for their evolution. They seek to improve morally or, by increasing knowledge, to enrich their understanding. The latter in particular is at the forefront in our time. Exams are the criteria for the level of development, and although fortunately there is some change in this, the intellectual level is usually regarded as the measure of the inner development of man.

Those who want to move forward encounter difficulties. They have an ideal and have to sacrifice a lot for it. By working for a purpose, they must leave much be. What others want to interfere with, for which they then have the satisfaction, they are getting closer and closer to their goal, and may eventually reach it.

For this moral and intellectual development, the development which the world can give to everyone, man uses the means especially suitable for this purpose, meditation (or prayer) and study. But besides these social virtues, as Porphyry called them, man can develop in himself something else, and the means to that end is initiation.

If we wish to describe this “other”, we must give some attention to that which lives in every human being.

When we consider everyday man, his inner life, his motives, his thoughts and desires, we can summarize all this in the word: egocentric. This man considers himself the centre of the world, all his feelings and thoughts revolve around the satisfaction of his own desires. And these desires are then not very lofty: his feelings are of a selfish nature, and his thoughts are almost exclusively focused on matter, because he sees in them the source for the satisfaction of his desires. Therefore, if energetic, this type usually has success in the world. It is the man who, for his own benefit, overruns everything and who, by not dwelling on spiritual trifles, can keep his full attention on matter.

When this person develops slowly, develops in a spiritual direction, expands his consciousness, love for himself gradually becomes love for his fellow men; first for his family, for his environment and then expanding in an ever-increasing circle, for his townsfolk and fellow countrymen and for all humanity. His self-love becomes the love for the fellow man.

And besides his concrete, matter-oriented, discriminating, dividing mind, which sees only the phenomena, he develops his abstract mind. He will search for the cause of the phenomena, for the how, for the power that lies behind the externalities, for the spirit behind the matter, for the noumenon behind the phenomenon. He begins to regard the form as a symbol and searches for the life that underlies it.

After this great step, which liberates man from the dominion of the lower, from matter, follows a second, a still greater one. His love for mankind develops into All-Love, and next to his reason, concrete and abstract, he develops Wisdom.

In Wisdom we again have a word understood by few. Usually, being wise is considered to be synonymous with being exceptionally clever, learned, knowledgeable. But one can be wise and illiterate; one can know too little for an elementary school transition exam and yet be a Sage unparalleled. To have wisdom means to have insight, to have a deeper and better understanding of the threefold mystery: God, man and the world.

Insight, Wisdom, Understanding cannot be learned, but can be developed. Slowly the world gives that Wisdom to but few, Wisdom, which at the same time includes All-Love, because both are but aspects of the same potency. After all, Wisdom causes the Oneness of all to be recognized. The Unity, which is the basis of everything and which the ordinary man, who only sees the separateness in the World of phenomena, does not realize, becomes more and more reality for him in whom Wisdom develops. And this understanding of the Oneness, this becoming aware of the fact that he is spiritually one with everything that exists, also brings with it a one with all that exists, and this feeling then expresses itself as All-Love.

It is the attainment of this Unity of Consciousness now that is accelerated through initiation. For the initiations which promote spiritual evolution lead the individual through various stages, of which Wisdom — All-Love is the highest, to that Oneness with God and with all that exists.

Through initiation the inner eye and the inner ear are opened more and more to that Oneness. The forms we see are the same as those other people perceive, but we see more and more that which is hidden behind these forms. We can say that initiations in man arouse unprecedented dormant powers. Every initiation opens a new perspective to the candidate; he starts a new life, as it were. Hence, in many initiations, the death of the old man and the birth of the new are symbolically represented. We see this always and everywhere, whether we consider an initiation into the ancient Mysteries, or the inclusion of an Australian savage into the rank of adult or of a clergyman in an order of monks. The new life is always preceded by a symbolic death and the resurrection, the rebirth [“herboorte”], the second birth, the rebirth [“wedergeboorte”], or whatever it is called, is always accompanied by the receiving of a new name.

A name has been regarded by initiates as a symbol of the inner man throughout the ages. An inner reversal must therefore also result in a new name, a name which better than the previous one reflects the new, now attained, spiritual stage.

As said, the highest stage, that of spiritual Unity, the unio mystica of the Mystics, is not reached all at once, but by means of a number of stages, which can be reduced to three great stages. Words the meaning of which, of course, could again only be truly understood by initiates.

The ancient Aryan Hindus spoke of three births which man had to undergo in order to become perfect, and the same expression we find most curiously also in the ancient Celtic Mysteries, that were celebrated in Britain at the beginning of our era. The ancient Egyptians called those who stood in the three different stages Mortals, Judges, and Creatures of Light, The Platonists had for the three stages the names Purification, Initiation, and Immediate vision, while the Gnostics referred to them as Loss of the sensual, Intellectual. contemplation and Union with the Absolute, The Naassenes spoke of Bounded, Called, and Elected, names most and best known from the biblical text: many are called but few are chosen; a text that speaks volumes in this regard. Dionysos the Areopagite used the expressions Purification, Initiation and Completion or Perfection, while in Theologia Germanica the corresponding words Cleansing, Enlightenment and Association appear. The Mystic Tauler described the stages with Aversion (to the world), Repentance (to oneself) and Return (to God) and finally we mention the division of Eckartshausen. Moral good and inner voice, Unlocking the sensual and Union with God.

All these similar terms, used in eras and even thousands of years apart, do give the impression that it is something which was essentially the same in all times, and that the few among men who experienced it, were always trying to put it into words. As a result, they also caused some to go the same way they had gone, to make the same sacrifices they had made, and to reap the same ingratitude for their all-giving Love that the bearers of spiritual Light have reaped and shall reap among the masses of those living in darkness, if they cast their pearls before the swines. Because

Die Wenigen, die was davon erkannt,
Und, töricht genug, ihr volles Herz nich wahrten,
Dem Pöbel ihr Gefühl, ihr Schauen offenbahrten,
Hat man von je gekreuzigt und verbrannt.

The few, who thereof something really learned,
Unwisely frank, with hearts that spurned concealing,
And to the mob laid bare each thought and feeling,
Have evermore been crucified and burned.
[Uncredited, but this is a quote from Goethes Faust I used the translation of Bayard Taylor]

Never has there been a fiercer battle than against those who boldly tried to understand something which the masses did not. Illogical as this always is, they deny the existence of the misunderstood and at the same time persecuted those who, in their opinion, selfishly retained this misunderstood Wisdom. But speaking with Eliphas Levi, the initiates remember the states of the widowers, the death of Orpheus, the exile and the lonely death of Moses, the martyrdom of the prophets, the torments – of Apollonius, the Savior’s cross; they know the desolation in which Agrippa died, whose memory is still vilified to this day, they know the trials to which the great Paracelsus succumbed and all that Raymundus Lullus had to suffer through his bloody death. They remember Swedenborg, who had to feign insanity and even lost his reason before his wisdom was acknowledged; Saint-Martin, who had to hide himself all his life, or Cazotte, who had to climb the scaffold. Although they are the successors of these and many other victims, they feel a duty to go the same way and do with self-effacement what they think can benefit the spiritual progress of mankind.

And so there have at all times been institutions which, through initiations, endeavoured to accelerate the spiritual development of the individuals.

In ancient pre-Christian times and a few more centuries afterward, most Mysteries were known from their decaying days. Little information has come to us from their spiritual heydays, but it is certain that they were highly regarded. Eminent men in all fields, statesmen, emperors, philosophers, and artists thought themselves honoured to have been initiated. The ancient writers speak highly of these institutions. Blissful. Euripides praises the man who has been initiated into the Great Mysteries; Your Athena, says Cicero, has produced many fine things, but nothing more exalted than the Mysteries. Even Clement of Alexandria, the Christian Church Father, the adversary of all that was pagan, speaking of the Eleusinian Mysteries, exclaims admiringly:
Here all learning ends, nature and things are seen.

However, with the demise of In paganism and the Mysteries, the initiations were not lost. The initiates sought and found other ways for individuals to experience accelerated spiritual evolution, and, while the initiations lived on to some extent in the ceremonies of the Christian church, several secret societies and heretic sects emerged, continuing the tradition of the ancient Mysteries. Always‚ oppressed and persecuted by the alone-saving Church, they always managed to hold themselves, even from time to time by means of metamorphosis. To this day we can follow the history of this school of thought, and Freemasonry may consider itself the modern successor of the ancient Mysteries,

For however much difference the initiatic societies may show from one another in their outward forms, they are in essence always the same; they always have the same goal, follow the same method, use the same means. The aim is always to make the individuals evolve faster, the method is always initiation and the means used is symbolism. The more deeply one studies the ancient or modern initiation rituals (and basically they amount to the same thing) the more one understands how these symbolic actions indeed result in initiation in the candidate who is ripe for it.

This is not the place to discuss this point which touches more the practice of initiation. We would, however, like to raise a question. And that is this one: What is the motive for initiation, the purpose of obtaining this deeper insight, this better understanding, that higher Wisdom?

Never can this be a selfish goal, because true initiation shuts off egoism. For we have seen that this first, this lowest stage of human development must be overcome before spiritual growth is possible. A child can never become an infant again, a man never a boy, an old man never a youth again. Likewise, a true initiate can never again become an egoist; that is then a vanquished position.

Someone, who once has reached the standpoint Wisdom — All-Love, will not use this Wisdom for the benefit of himself, but for the benefit of that which his Love possesses. In all-embracing Love he will put his Wisdom with all his other powers in the service of Man and with this purpose in mind, but for this purpose alone, he must undertake the long, arduous and often lonely journey, which will lead them from darkness to Light, from ignorance to Wisdom, from egoism to All-Love.

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