What is an ‘Adept’ and ‘Initiate’ in Western Esotericism
“Initiates are sure to come into the company of the gods.” (Socrates in the Phaedo)
The term Adept used in Theosophy often seems like an authoritative title, such as Shaberon (Mong. hubligan), meaning a superior adept. It is also said that the real adept is actually the inner man, the god, or divine potency in mortals, when in action. Adepts are not all-foreseeing infallible beings, nor can one be in such conditions at every hour; but they are mortal, therefore not spirits, and can die. “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” (Psalms 22:1)
“Adeptus. Derived from the Latin word Adeptus — “he who has obtained.” The term refers to one who is an Initiate, and has become a master of the secret sciences, “men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree” (SD I:273). Helena P. BLAVATSKY distinguishes adepts of the right and the left path. The latter are sorcerers whose powers are used for selfish purposes.” (Theosopedia, Adeptus)
A SIGNAL OF DANGER ON ETYMOLOGY OF ADEPT AND INITIATE
“Everybody knows that the word “Adept” comes from the Latin Adeptus. This term is derived from the two words, ad “of” and Apisci “to pursue” (Sanskrit ap). An Adept would then be a person versed in a certain art or science acquired in one manner or another. It follows that this qualification can be applied as well to an adept in astronomy as to an adept in the art of making pâtés de foies gras (chopped liver); a shoemaker as a perfumer, the one versed in the art of making boots, the other in the art of chemistry–are ‘adepts.’
As to the term Initiate, it is quite another matter. Every Initiate must be an adept in occultism; he must become one before being initiated in the Great Mysteries. But every adept is not always an Initiate. It is true that the Illuminati used the term Adeptus in speaking of themselves, but they did so in a general sense … Thus were used the terms Adeptatus, Adeptus Coronatus in the seventh degree of the Swedish rite; and Adeptus Exemptus in the seventh degree of the Rosie-Cross. This is an innovation of the Middle Ages. But no real Initiate of The Great (or even the Lesser) Mysteries, is called in the classical works Adeptus, but Initiatus in Latin, and Epopte in Greek. These same Illuminati treated as Initiates only those of their brothers who were more instructed than the others in the mysteries of their Society. It was only the less instructed among them who had the name Mystes and Adeptes inasmuch as they were as yet only admitted to the inferior degrees.
Let us pass now to the term “initiate.”
Let us first say that there is a great difference between the verb and the substantive (substantif) of this word. A professor initiates his pupil into the first elements of a certain science, a science in which the student may become adept, that is, versed in its specialty. On the other hand, an adept in occultism is first instructed in the religious mysteries, after which, if he is lucky enough not to succumb during the terrible trials of initiation, he becomes an INITIATE. The best classical translators invariably render the Greek by this phrase: “Initiated in the Great Mysteries”; for this term is synonymous with Hierophant, “he who explains the sacred mysteries.” Initiatus among the Romans was equivalent to the term Mystagogus and both were absolutely reserved for the one who in the Temple initiated others into the highest mysteries. He represented, therefore, figuratively, the Universal Creator. None dared pronounce this name before the profane. The place of the “Initiatus” was to the Orient, where he was seated, a globe about or suspended from his neck. The Free-Masons tried to imitate the Hierophant-lnitiatus in the person of their “Venerables” and Grand Masters of the Lodges.
But does the cowl make the monk?
It is to be regretted that they did not content themselves with this sole profanation.
The substantive French (and English) “initiation” being derived from the Latin word initium, commencement, the Masons with more respect for the dead letter that kills than for the spirit which gives life have applied the term “initiate” to all their neophytes or candidates–to the beginners–in all the Masonic degrees–the highest as well as the lowest.
Yet they knew better than anyone that the term Initiatus pertained to the 5th and to the highest degree of the order of the Templars; that the title Initiate in the mysteries was the 21st degree of the metropolitan chapter in France; in the same manner as that of the Initiate in the profound mysteries indicated the 62nd degree of the same chapter. Knowing all this, they nevertheless applied this title, sacred and sanctified by its antiquity, to their simple candidates–the infants (bambins), among the “Sons of the Widow.” But because the passion for innovations and modifications of all kinds accomplished for the Masons what an occultist of the Orient regards as a veritable sacrilege, is this a reason for the Theosophists to accept their terminology?
We, disciples of the Masters of the Orient, have naught to do with modern Masonry. The real secrets of symbolical Masonry are lost–as Ragon so well proves. The keystone (clef de voûte), the central stone of the arch built by the first royal dynasties of the Initiates–ten times prehistorical–found itself shaken since the abolition of the last mysteries. The work of destruction, or rather of strangling and choking commenced by the Cæsars, was finally achieved in Europe, by the Church Fathers. Imported once more, since, from the sanctuaries of the Far East, the sacred stone was cracked and finally broken into a thousand pieces. On whom shall the blame for this crime fall?
Shall it be on the Free-Masons, the Templars especially–persecuted, assassinated and violently divested of their annals an written statutes? Shall it be on the Church, which having appropriated the dogmas and rituals of primitive Masonry, passed them off as its own travestied rites, as the sole TRUTH and resolved smother the latter?
Be that as it may, it is no longer the Masons who have all of the truth whether we place the blame on Rome or the insect Shermah of the famous temple of Solomon which modern Masonry vindicates as base and origin of its order.
For decades of thousands of years the genealogical tree of the sacred science which the peoples possessed in common, was the same–for the temple of this science is ONE and is built on the unshakeable rock of primitive truths.”
“However much the Agnostics of our age may find themselves in the mental attitude demanded by Modern Science, people are always apt to cling to their old hobbies so long as the remembrance of them lasts. They are like the Emperor Julian – called the Apostate, because he loved truth too well to accept aught else – who, though in his last Theophany he beheld his beloved Gods as pale, worn-out, and hardly discernible shadows, nevertheless clung to them. Let, then, the world cling to its Gods, to whatever plane or realm they may belong. The true Occultist would be guilty of high treason to mankind, were he to break forever the old deities before he could replace them with the whole and unadulterated truth – and this he cannot do as yet. Nevertheless, the reader may be allowed to learn at least the alphabet of that truth. He may be shown, at any rate, what the Gods and Goddesses of the Pagans, denounced as demons by the Church, are not, if he cannot learn the whole and final truth as to what they are. Let him assure himself that the Hermetic “Tres Matres,” and the “Three Mothers” of the Sepher Jetzirah are one and the same thing; that they are no Demon-Goddesses, but Light, Heat, and Electricity, and then, perchance, the learned classes will spurn them no longer.
After this, the Rosicrucian Illuminati may find followers even in the Royal Academies, which will be more prepared, perhaps, than they are now, to admit the grand truths of archaic Natural Philosophy, especially when their learned members shall have assured themselves that, in the dialect of Hermes, the “Three Mothers” stand as symbols for the whole of the forces or agencies which have a place assigned to them in the modern system of the “correlation of forces.” [“Synesius mentions books of stone which he found in the temple of Memphis, on one of which was engraved the following sentence: ‘One nature delights in another, one nature overcomes another, one nature overrules another, and the whole of them are one’.” “The inherent restlessness of matter is embodied in the saying of Hermes: ‘Action is the life of Phta’: and Orpheus calls nature χολυμηχανος ματηρ, ‘the mother that makes many things,’ or the ingenious, the contriving, the inventive mother.” [Isis Unveiled, I, 257. Cf. Eugenius Abel, Orphica, Lipsiae, 1885.] Even the polytheism of the “superstitious” Brâhman and idolater shows its raison d’être, since the three Shaktis of the three great Gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, are identical with the “Three Mothers” of the monotheistic Jew.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Dangers of Practical Magic, Collected Writings, Vol. 14, pg. 59.)