The purpose of initiation is to provide a viable bridge for crossing from one stage of self to another. The child, who must become an adult, must be released from a deep instinctual longing for symbiotic comfort and fully move forward into adult fulfillment.
If that deep instinctual longing is not transformed into adult aims, what ensues, as we move through the life cycle, is a splintering of self. That uninitiated, splintered self, with no clear bridge to cross, is left to deal with its fragments as best it can as it stumbles forward, unprepared, into adult life. Of necessity, a present self, an adult self of sorts, will be forged, charged with adapting to the flow and expectations of everyday life. Denied, splintered parts of the self will take up residence in the background of the psyche, separate selves with separate needs, islands of discontent and protest, creating disturbance in the great sea of the self.
Indigenous human ancestors performed initiation rites to safely transport youth into full-fledged adulthood, thus creating a definite bridge between childhood and adult life. These rites forced the initiate into ritual sacrifice that consisted of some form of wounding, be it circumcision, a solo journey, or other form of transformative encounter. Survivors of the ordeal were then welcomed back into the community, in adult roles now, never to return to their childhood homes. Through a deeply meaningful process, longing was transformed into love and protection of the greater community and finding a mate to create one’s own nuclear family.
Collective initiation rites have long since faded from the human landscape. Modern humans are largely left to their own devices to navigate through major life transitions. Recapitulation is such a device to successfully traverse life changes. Through recapitulation we gather up the multiplicity of our splintered selves, take a ritual solo journey, and launch a united self into life’s fulfillment.
Recapitulation, like all initiation rites, incorporates sacrifice. In recapitulation the present self enters the world of the younger self and bears witness to and personally experiences the feelings, physical sensations, needs and confusions of its splintered self.
The most important task of the recapitulation process is for the adult self to be fully present, to take the journey without judgment, as the truths of life lived are revealed in intimate detail. Sometimes the process unfolds slowly, in piecemeal recall; at other times in rapid-fire reliving, like a labor that can’t be stopped until the total experience is fully birthed.
The ability of the adult self to remain fully present with the younger self through the contractions of this birthing process allows the defensive structures that held back secrets and maintained separation to be dismantled once and for all—they are no longer necessary.
The deepest needs of the splintered self are met through the stable presence of the adult self. No matter what shape that adult self is in, it must remain firmly present, even though it must also face the same fear, shame, anger, hatred, etc. that the younger self encounters as it relives its experiences. As the adult self reencounters experiences alongside the younger self, it must constantly reassert its present state of knowing, maintaining balanced awareness of the two worlds it must navigate through. It must bring to bear tools and guidance that the younger self did not have available, constantly reasserting its mature knowledge of how the world and the psyche work.
As the younger self faces the past head on, the adult self aids the process as the journey unfolds, gradually growing in acceptance of and love for the younger self and the journey taken. Eventually, this integration process of acceptance and love extends to loving and caring for the present adult self as well. Thus, the energy and aims of the younger self are allowed to be born and integrated into the evolving whole of the present self, manifesting in real life changes of attitude, appearance, and behavior. This is change. This is transformation. We are then freed, a new present adult self fully ready to take up the task of living our unlived life. This is recapitulation launching us into individuation, wholeness, and fulfillment.
This ancient practice of recapitulation is fully available in modern times, but in contrast to the collective initiation rites of our ancestors, it can only be done on an individual basis. Who else could recapitulate my life but me?
Though others can facilitate and support, the process of becoming whole requires taking a journey of assimilation within the self. And that assimilation requires a mature present self willing to embrace and endure the full process, as the truth of the self is revealed.
In the recapitulating of past woundings the adult self goes through the necessary initiation to cross the bridge into fuller adulthood and fuller responsibility for life lived and life yet to unfold. This endurance of old woundings is the sacrifice necessary to free the stifled energy of splintered selves into finding real life in the evolving wholeness of the present self.
In taking the solo journey to assimilation we free ourselves to fully live in this lifetime, as caring, loving individuals, and we have no idea what that might mean until we are there, living it!