INITIATION
DEATH AND REBIRTH


      Christian baptism is a relatively benign initiation ceremony symbolic of death to this world and rebirth in Christ. Most religions require some such break with the past life and rebirth in the new, dedicated henceforth to the principles embodied in the religion. Initiations are meant to alter the consciousness. Gang initiations are frequently brutal and often criminal. Out of control fraternity initiations on college campuses have even resulted in deaths. Behind it all is the idea that the initiate is permanently transformed from what he was to what he has become. If the initiate is sincere, there is no turning back.

      The scenario I created for Morgen is so symbolically rich and descriptive of this level of initiation, it is worthy of close examination. The audience (or the reader) does not know, after all, that the horrifying piece of music they hear is called "The Tomb of Every Hope." The dog-guide leads the way, but is soon lost to sight and Morgen finds himself in a narrow, confined space in absolute darkness. The stone slab corridor is both the grave and the passageway to the otherworld. Fighting back panic, like a snake shedding its skin, Morgen crawls forward on his belly until he finally emerges in the underground vault, the womb of the earth, through which, if he is successful, he may be reborn.

      I was fortunate in my travel through Cappadocia in modern day Turkey, to have the opportunity to undergo an ordeal related to the one I devised for Morgen. There were six in our party, including our interpreter and driver. Through the interpreter, the driver told us of a tunnel near by, like a chimney, carved out of the stone. If you dared climb it, it took you to the top of the inside of a hill, from where you could see for miles around. He said the tunnel was pitch black, rather long, and though many attempted to climb it, few made it to the top. I asked if he had ever done it. He said yes.

      I had before me the opportunity to undergo one of the classic initiation ordeals of antiquity. Shortly, over the protests and pleadings of my interpreter, we stood before the entrance. The interpreter tried to reason with me, but he was wasting his breath. Before me was a mystery, a wonder not attained by reason. With a gleam in his eye, the driver disappeared up the dark shaft. I quickly handed my camera and passport to my friend, Bond Johnson, an active Methodist minister and president of Cine-Media International, for safe keeping. I didn't want to damage the camera and I suspected that where I was going, my earthly passport would do me no good. And then, up the "chimney" I rose.

      I had never experienced such utter darkness. The passageway was very narrow and I had to grope the blackness above me to make sure I didn't bump my head and to find handholds for my ascent. Inside the passageway, it was as dark and silent as a tomb. My own labored breathing and the scrape of my shoes on the stone walls below were the only sounds. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I climbed steadily higher and higher, until it seemed I must have climbed the hill three times, and still I had not reached the top. Then, suddenly, I was through. The dark top of the hill above me had prevented me from anticipating my success until it was upon me. Now, with just my head peering out of the hole, I could look from side to side and see daylight.

      I went to the opening at the top of the hill and called down to my companions to come on up, that the experience was indescribable, but none answered my call. They were all quite happy for me, but none of them felt the need for death and rebirth just then and they were rather hoping that I'd come down, so that we could all go to lunch.
Travis Edward Pike
28 January 2019, Otherworld Cottage