Excerpt from Shiva and the Primordial Tradition
Monastic or Hermetic Tradition
“In the four castes, initiation refers to the social person’s participation in the cosmological rite, in the work of the Creator, in maintaining society, and improving human conditions as a whole on the spiritual level. Monastic initiation is quite another kind and is placed at a different level. Its aim is the full realization of the individual on the spiritual level, beyond all contingencies.
Monastic initiation can only be granted to people chosen to transmit the highest secrets of knowledge and of the final human destiny. They belong to no caste, no social circle. Their hierarchy is secret and at its head is that omniscient being, who has sometimes been called the King of the World. They only belong marginally to the society of humankind, in their public teachings and directives. It is only when the survival of traditional society is threatened that some of them may be delegated to take part in the action, “go down with the brahmans to the field of battle,” as the law of Manu says.
…When part of humankind is deemed to be heading for destruction, the hermetic tradition may close up within its shell and stay there unknown until a new humanity arises that is deserving of its message. Usually, in India, the bearers of esoteric tradition don the orange robe of the sadhus, the wandering monks, who have no family, no attachments, no fixed dwelling, nor material possessions. … Their powers are immense, their knowledge incredible … It is their duty to teach, wherever they may be, the myths, the moral virtues, elementary wisdom, whatever will help consolidate traditional society. This has nothing to do with their true role, however, which is magical and mysterious. They can read minds and see the future. They know human destiny and do their best to aid a society that is racing to its destruction. They are the guardians of a secret treasure of knowledge for the future of humankind.
When world conditions demand and some form of action is required, qualified persons –while remaining in the world – may receive what we may term a virtual initiation, which cannot as a rule be transmitted, but which allows them to play an exceptional role in human society. Some of these mysterious ‘initiates,’ like Christian Rosenkreutz, or Nicholas Flamel, or even Rasputin, who have appeared at certain moments in the Western world, most probably belong to this category.
No one knows the degrees and rites of monastic initiation, except so far as the very first stages are concerned ….because those who are admitted to this path never turn back and if they halt on the way, their destiny can be frightful, since they risk falling into the maleficent circuits of counterinitiation.” – Shiva and the Primordial Tradition: From the Tantras to the Science of Dreams by Alain Danielou (Inner Traditions, 2007)