Is Initiation the lost path to Getting Rid of Emotional Baggage?

initiation shaman

Until recently I would have said the same thing about initiation. What has getting rid of emotional baggage got to do with African Tribe and Witch Doctors and stuff?
Well, as with all things in life, if you take the time to scratch the surface, tremendous lessons can be learnt.  We are all looking for a way of getting rid of emotional baggage, is initiation the way people have done it for a thousand of years without knowing it.

This is the case when it comes to initiation. After you read this article if hope you can build the hindsight I have to look back in time and wonder how you could have ever missed it, thousands of years of tradition; forgotten and written off as irrelevant.

My new opinion is that these sorts of traditions and rituals span a thousand years because they work. What other reason could you conclude? The post below will outline classic initiation practices and try to find a modern equivalent.


Classic initiation

The purpose of the initiation ritual is to provide a clear path for a boy to become a man.

In general the classic initiation was a Linear process of several stages:

Stage 1 – Young child bonds with the mother.  Adolescent must separate from mother.

Often the mother would forcibly reject the son for his own good and against his will.

Stage 2 – Adolescent must bond with the father. Adolescent must then separate from the father.

Stage 3 – Initiate must have all their defenses broken down, kill their ego, unlearn all the tricks and prejudices that were relevant to them as a child.

This is the stage where you will see the stereotypical strength and stamina tests such as (circumcisions, jumping off cane towers, tests of strength or pain tolerance).

Stage 4 – Authority & Spirituality – Adolescent must build a relationship with an external mentor and be presented with an existence bigger than they could have ever imagined on their own.

Presentation of a big picture of life stops them from seeing everything in duality (that means everything black and white or us and them). This philosophy allows adult thinking, some situations can be win-win if you are prepared to make sacrifices.

Note this authority figure was typically not the father, it was a male elder who specialized in this role. This task is not something anyone off the street can just step into. This role was sometimes performed by someone like a Shaman.

Stage 5 – External Mastery

The initiate learned about history, culture mastered a skill or a trade, learned to fight, learned to love, build strength

Stage 6 – Internal Mastery

In this stage the initiate draws on lessons learned in all the previous stages to build self-esteem, new self identity, self assessment skills, responsibility, autonomy.

Stage 7 – Integrate back into their society as an adult.

Follow the path set down by the elders/mentor and regularly check back in again with mentor for guidance.

The venue for most of these initiation rituals is liminal space.Inner child

Liminal is a Greek word meaning “threshold”, in this context it is the space between daily life and a spiritual world, a limbo-land separated from the constraints of daily life but easier to get to (and back from) than the afterlife. More often than not the wilderness is used for liminal space in initiations but sometimes the human mind itself can form liminal space (in the case of vision questions for example, when large doses of psychedelics were used). Liminal space is both time and location. Performing rituals were the means of transcending the profane space into liminal space.

Profane space is everyday life. It is again both representative of time and location.

Does the modern society practice any of these steps?

  • Separation from mother is seldom thought of as a positive in modern day culture. In fact the mother typically defines her entire existence by her children and will not let go.
  • Meaningful bonding with the father is seldom possible while the father is either away from the family house virtually all the time for work (even in an office) or not living in the family house.
  • Teenagers are propped up with false senses of belonging and false senses of community (I.e. Facebook, Instagram etc.)
  • there is certainly no presentation of a big picture to life or any education about non-duality.
  • External mastery is left to school or college
  • Internal mastery is a foreign concept, unknown to the majority.

As a result of this lack of initiation men (and women) had a tendency to continue acting on the lessons they learned as children. They grow to be attention seekers and interested in instant self gratification.

But what about the women you say? Well it is true that the transition of modern girls into adults is lacking just as much as that of boys. While traditionally a woman’s biology would be all they needed for initiation (I.e. a woman became pregnant as a teenager, had a baby, instantly became an adult whether she liked it or not) nowadays modern medicine is pushing childbirth into the 30s or 40s and the limbo-land between childhood and adulthood is becoming longer and longer. I couldn’t find any historical references to initiation of girls (apart from female circumcisions. I AM NOT GOING THERE).

Is middle-age divorce becoming a pseudo-male initiation?

One theory I want to present here is that the only modern process that even comes close to resembling an initiation process is the following life path (one I am all too familiar with as is the majority of modern men).

  1. indoctrination as a young child into a female oriented society
  2. mother clings onto the child as long as possible and won’t let goInitiation
  3. child rejects parents as a teenager and searches for something big to cling onto (music, social movements, groups, etc) failing that just chooses something incredibly loud such as a metal band
  4. young adult spends several years (or decades) searching for a meaning to life and or purpose
  5. young adults meets a partner, pours all their life purpose into the relationship, loses their sense of self to the relationship and or kids that soon follow
  6. Biological changes & social attitude change in the male & female in middle age render the relationship unfamiliar. Divorce follows, male is stripped of everything he previously defined himself by and is left with no sense of identity.
  7. Soul searching, rock bottom, best case scenario is he starts to redefine himself as a new person
  8. Sees the worst of society firsthand and wakes up to the big picture (the big cesspool)
  9. Builds a new work life and a new social life
  10. Puts fatherhood on hold while kids are young because he doesn’t have access to them (and waits until they grow up and come back when they are teenagers)
  11. Finds himself with far too much spare time on his hands and looks inside to try to fill some voids. Seeks inner peace and commits to self-improvement. Improve his sense of self and health beyond measure.

There is a growing number of zeta males and sigma males building the manosphere online who are performing the role of the classical elders/mentors for male initiates seeking to embark on this process.


Traditionally initiation was a ceremony used for a thousand years to jump start a child’s transition into adulthood. It gave them a clear boundary between childhood and adulthood and presented a path into adulthood and the context needed for such a journey.
Initiation is a spiritual & social experience which jettisons the childhood emotional baggage and gives a child the tools needed to make himself or herself into a whole person (spiritual, physical, emotional and social).

Initiation integrates all the internal and external world aspects.getting rid of emotional baggage

The timing of the ritual aligned with what we now understand as an important time in a teenagers stage of brain development.
In a previous article I explored the dilemma of the modern man-child. I strongly believe the abundance of people holding onto the childhood or stuck in a space between childhood and adulthood is clearly due to a failure from our society to present young people with this clear path to adulthood.
There is very clear parallels between initiation process and the spiritual enlightenment path.
Most important consideration to remember is that the initiation is performed by older men in the bests interests of the male initiate inside of liminal space. Some of these initiation rituals seem barbaric when taken out of the context.

I strongly believe that history has provided us with a well-proven path to transition our children successful into adulthood. It is going ignored and the social cesspool grows as a result.

To delve deeper into this topic see my review on the book Iron John by Robert Bly.

18 Replies to “Is Initiation the lost path to Getting Rid of Emotional Baggage?”

  1. What a great article, I am of the same thinking as I was brought up in a latin family. We were not so easily lead down the norm of society. My father has always been in my life although we had out problems we always came back together. I was a single father of 2 kids they are both grown now and doing fine. It is hard to help them see for themselves what is best. I always told them to make your mistakes and go from there. If we could go back to a least some of what you wrote I am sure we would be a better people.

    1. I am not an advocate to going back to the good old days by any means Rod. There is more and more problems popping up today that seem to have already been solved a long time ago and we continue to ignore the hard work our ancestors put in to help us.

  2. Great post to make one think. I have been a single mom for my son’s whole life. Not by my choice, but yeah stuff happens. My son does not know his dad. For the longest time, I tried to foster a relationship until I found myself at odds with my son just for trying. Anyway, he did competitive gymnastics his whole life and his coaches have always been a great father figure to him. He is not into Facebook, twitter, texting, or any of the stuff. I think it has been the discipline that gymnastics has taught him. Anyway, not all teenagers wind up to the description you give. Every now and then, we get a few that are, well just great kids.

    1. Your son must be the one in a million exception. There is an epidemic of men being alienated from their own kids. Whether it by their own actions or others, it is the kids who have lost their potential.
      Unfortunately the social factors that influence a man’s decisions encourage him to walk away from his kids, simple risk mitigation in some cases.

  3. In Japan, the adulthood starts from 20 years old, and we have a celebration ceremony on January 20th. It is when we draw the line between the childhood and the adulthood, and I think it is a good thing to have a day that we say goodbye to childhood and become adults. One thing missing in Japan, though is the spirituality element (stage 4 of your article). Having spiritual element could help some (if not all) people find their purpose in their lives, instead of just living the life as it comes.
    Thank you for the great article!

    1. the japanese culture is fascinating and something i need to learn a lot more about.
      I have been reading up on herbivore, salary, hikokomori,parasite singles, etc. etc.
      Japan seems to put a lot more weight on ceremony and ritual, and pay a lot more respect to their ancestors.

  4. Wow, it sounds like you have a lot of experience in this area. I imagine divorce is very difficult to process for kids. I’m not quite clear on what an initiation process is, but your steps you outlined seemed logical for many people in this situation. It must be very hard for both parents to feel like they’re getting the optimum chance to be there for their kids.

    1. Normally what happens in child custody disputes is that one parent gets custody and the other gets access every second weekend.   

      When it happened to me the explanation was that a university study somewhere set the convention..  I would love to read the paper because I bet it has been contextualised into something completely different now.

      thanks for dropping in Holly.

  5. Hello Remy, you have a nice article. Most of the time we meet such situation among families. My son is about 12 but i still taking him as a baby and he hates that and for sure i can’t change my behaviour , i am his mother. Anyway, i divorced his father but he behave as if he is my guardian and i hate seeing my little baby behaving like adult.

    What can i do ? 

    1. Maybe it is time for you to start thinking of yourself as something more than just a mother.  Surely your whole identity can’t be locked up into one role.  In a lot of tribal communities the mothers used to reject their sons around the age of 12, force them to live with their fathers for a few years (which was on the outskirts of the village) to force them to learn the masculine skills they will need to become a man. 

      Even if the single mothers out there understood that they cannot be a mother and a father they would be giving their sons a big help in their transition years.

  6. Wow, controversial topic or what? Yes I do see the point and it wouldn’t be fair of me to judge as I am extremely fortunate to have been married happily for 15 years now with three beautiful children whom I would die for without a moments hesitation. I definitely agree with your websites name its absolutely astonishing that a man and woman don’t consider what’s at stake by removing one of the two from a Childs equation for extended periods of time. It’s only later in life having come from a divorced house myself that I realise how much my dad actually imprinted on me, I unfortunately lost him at age 16 but never forgot him ever. Dad is the most important job in my life bar none, I believe it’s crucial that Dads are not excluded in anyway and hope that in every situation rationalisation for the good of the child will prevail.

    1. The best advice I can pass on glen is

      Don’t take your fatherhood for granted glen.  

      I know lots of men (me included) who were married one minute and separated without child access the next minute.  All you good intentions and years of previous work are forgotten in an instant.

      Sign of the times.

  7. What an awesome post. I relate to this post more than you could know. My religious beliefs are more in line with Native American Indian or Wicca than they are with Catholic, methodist or Baptist etc. You really hit me between the eyes with this post. I felt myself wanting to go through this spiritual journey.Thank you for this excellent post.

    1. thanks Donnie.  I guess it is never too late to embark on any journey you want to take.  As long as you are still kicking go for it.  A lot of other people are starting to see the difference between spirituality and organised religion too.

  8. Very interesting analysis of the problems are society is currently facing today. But was initiation only meant for young males? What about the females? What ritual was reserved for them?

    Finding out a true purpose in one’s life is a dilemma that everyone faces, not only males. But what you have raised as a potential solution to the problem is really food for thought. I never ever thought of it that way.

    By the way, where was this initiation practiced? I mean in which particular country? Very very interesting topic. I enjoyed the read. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I have found very little in the way of female initiations beyond the obvious one in india which involves mutilation of the unmentionables.  The conclusion I came to,regarding female initiation (speaking in times long gone now – 200 years ago to 20,0000 years ago) is that childbirth formed a woman’s transition into adulthood.  

      There is all manners of ceremonies that surround childbirth.  It is therefore a much more abrupt and natural transition for females. 

      Now fast forward to today’s times and ponder on the decision not to have children until your late 30s or 40s.

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