Identity | Initiation | Sacrifice

These three things are at the heart of this conversation between Charles Eisenstein and Orland Bishop1.

Identity as a central organizing mechanism around which we build our lives. Our identities become not simply something from which we view the world, but they become what we are. Just about every spiritual tradition cautions us about this idea.

Initiation as a means by which we move beyond our identity, toward something bigger. Inititaion is an invitation, one that comes from those who walk ahead of us on the larger path that we share. These are the elders, the ones who have gained wisdom. The wisdom is of experience, but it’s also of accepting the invitation to that bigger path. An invitation that leads us to unknowing. To trusting that there is something beyond our identity.

Sacrifice as the mechanism that must be utilized where the identity meets the initiation. Transcending the moment requires a letting go. This sacrifice is at the heart of every transformative moment. Sometimes it feels obvious, or happens unconscoiusly. But where initiation is required, it means stepping into the ultimate fear, the fear that lives at the center of our being: that of death; for where there is a letting go, there is a death; where there is a transformation, there is a death.

The point that gets made in this dialogue between these two remarkable men is that this isn’t sipmly just a process that humans have come up with — it’s something that lives within us as living beings. It’s woven into the very fabric of life. And if we don’t construct the structures within which to experirnce these thigns they will happen on their own. This can lead to some very dark things. Dark things, I would argue, we are beginning to see come to fruition.

Western society — which is really a polite2 way of saying white society” — has abandoned the initiation. Indeed, we’ve abandoned almost all ceremony. This need has been met in some interesting ways. It’s met on sports teams, in college greek houses”, in corporate and military life. It tends to be filled with shadow, and it tends to be traumatic in ways that can cause lasting damage. In the dialogue, Bishop talks about how right now, in this time that we live in, the entire planet is going through an initiation. The question isn’t so much, what is happening, it’s how will we participate?

We don’t have a direct and clear connection to the ceremonies that can help us navigate these times. Some do. Those who have ties to their indigenous roots do. But those of us in white society, who, unfortunately, hold much of the power in how the world is taking shape right now3, don’t have direct connection. In their dialogue, Bishop and Eisenstein talk about how tryihng to appropriate the ceremony of others (which we tend to do in white culture) is dangerous and harmful. So, what do we do?

What is offered in the recording is to come into alignment with what is being called for by the larger energies around us. By the greater whole we are all a part of. It’s in this part of the conversation that Bishop says something I love: Attention doesn’t require content.” Here, he means that we can hold attention on beingness itself. And then we can see what arises.

From where do you think our ancestors received their ceremonies? Did they invent them? It seems it’s quite likely they received them. Perhaps it happened over time. Perhaps it happened over generations. But does that matter? Perhaps the very act of going in search” of ceremony is a part of the healing that the world requires.

And in this all, an initiation. An initiation that brings us beyond our identity.

One great sacrifice.

  1. I wrote a bit about part 1 of this conversation here and here.

  2. For white people, mind you. BIPOC folk understnd this particular dogwhislte all too well.

  3. By which I mean the resources, and the political power.

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