"The function of ritual is to give form to human life, not in the way of a surface arrangement, but in depth. In ancient times every social occasion was ritually structured and the depth was rendered through the maintenance of a religious tone. Myths are the mental supports of rites; rites, the physical enactment of myths."
"For us...it is imperative that one be an active Free-Mason and to have attained at least the degree of Master Mason in order to be a candidate for the clergy. We estimate this to imply that the members of the clergy have symbolically passed through the death of the physical body in the first degree and that of the soul in the third degree, and that they have thereby attained the immortal, liberated and androgynous spirit. This also permits us to have women amongst our clergy - as in the 2nd and 3rd centuries where female bishops held the title of 'Sophia'."
-René Chambellant, Patriarch of the Église Gnostique Apostolique
The mystery schools of initiation specialize in impressing upon every part of our being - physical, mental and spiritual - the various stages of our soul's evolution. The aim of their initiations is to bring the candidate to compassion through knowledge, to teach him to cultivate within himself the latent faculties of spiritual sight. The initiations enable the candidate to chart his progress as an aspirant to the higher life. In the final degrees, he attains the divine knowledge of Gnosis and thereby comes to the realization of his oneness with all that lives and moves, which puts him in full and perfect attunement with the infinite. Initiation is indeed equivalent to a spiritual maturing, or a rite that makes, for a time, the spiritual tangible.
Within this site are the major Initiatic Orders as represented by and most commoly affiliated within the web of Gnosticism and the Gnostic Church. There are others, but these are at the core.
A quote from Louis-Claude de Saint Martin on Initiation:
"The only initiation which I profess and for which I fervently search with my whole Soul is that by which we may enter into the heart of God and cause the heart of God to enter into us, thereby establishing an indissoluble marriage making us the friend, the brother and the spouse of our divine Redeemer.
"There is no other mystery to arriving at this holy initiation than to dive deeper into the depths our own being, and not to let go until we can manage to dig up the living and life-giving root; because all the fruits which we should bear, according to our kind, are produced naturally within, just as we see with the trees on the earth adhering to their particular roots, unceasingly pumping forth their sap."
A further note on "Rites of Initiation":
"The harder we have to struggle for something, the more precious it becomes. Somehow, in sacrificing, we prove to ourselves that what we're seeking is valuable. This holds true when we're pursuing membership.
Sacrifice locks commitment. As people strive to make it through rigorous selection standards, and work to prove their worthiness, they persuade themselves that being a part of the group matters.
Initiation rites - like high walls and narrow gates of entry - build commitment to the group through making acceptance hard to come by. Being allowed to join becomes something special. An achievement. A privilege. And it creates a sense of exclusiveness.
Belonging doesn't count much if almost anybody can drift in or drift out of your group at will. If it's easy to join up, then leave and return, only to leave again, commitment can be hard to find.
Initiation rites also create a common bond of experience that unites all who make it through the ordeal. A strong sense of "we-ness" comes from having gone through a common struggle. This identification with the group feeds commitment.
Finally, stiff criteria for admission cause the weak-hearted to deselect themselves. They opt out after weighing the costs. For them, the rights of membership aren't worth going through the rites of Initiation. The benefit? People with low commitment never get inside.
The greater the personal investment in getting accepted, the more one builds a stake in the organization. This means you should make membership a big deal. Let people pay a price to join. That guarantees commitment at the outset, and also makes it easier to build commitment later on.
Make membership hard to come by, and commitment comes naturally."
-Firing Up Commitment During Organizational Change, PricePritchett (Pritchett & Associates, Inc., 1994 ISBN #0944002-14-5 Dallas, Texas) Page 19 & 20