Book recommendation: “Initiation” by Elisabeth Haich

From the cover of the book: The book is one of the great classics of spiritual literature about the mystery schools of ancient Egypt.

Elizabeth Haich was a yoga teacher from Hungary (born 1897). In the late 30s she founded in Budapest the first yoga school until she fled from the Russians in 1944. In Zurich she opened and led together with Selva Yesudian a new yoga school of hatha yoga until she died in 1994.

Recommendation of all her work: The author and yoga teacher is mainly concentrating on the “Yoga of the Mind”. Even if you usually don’t read novels anymore, probably reading the 600 pages (!) of the novel “Initiation” will be easy. Elisabeth Haich shapes her knowledge into a story, while providing hints about putting these theories into practice. You can also read her book “Raja Yoga”, which explains yoga in a more concise way, or any of the others that she wrote. “Initiation” is an easy way to learn about yoga and spirituality and what these two mean in daily life.

Yoga and spirituality: “Sever the ignorant doubt in your heart with the sword of self-knowledge. Observe your discipline. Arise.” – Bhagavad Gita

Yoga is the realization of the Self, the indwelling divine SELF, which is different from our little self. If you practice yoga, the exercises shall lead you to this experience. Intellectual conception is not enough: you have to experience God as your Divine Spark within.

The knowledge of reading a book becomes useful when you put it into practice. The protagonist experiences this in the novel and the reader can accompany her on her journey, gaining clarity as she begins to integrate her realizations and learnings into her own life.

The underlying question of the novel: At the beginning of the book, the question is posed, why we are here on earth. Why we encounter so many difficulties, solve them, and then have to leave again. For what?

The introductory text comes to the conclusion that there has to be an answer to this question. And the one way to access the answer is to experience it from a higher state of consciousness.

The novel’s plot: The novel has multiple parallel story lines: one in ancient Egypt and one in the twentieth century in Europe during the two world wars. In the end of the book these two come beautifully together.

The protagonist in Europe starts with her life story from childhood, her upbringing, her marriage and later the demands of the Second World War.

She has very difficult times to conquer and she applies spiritual knowledge along the way to get better ground under her feet. First, unconsciously. But later with much conscious awareness.

The storyline in Egypt takes place 3000 years earlier at the time of the pharaohs. A young woman is educated in one of the mystery schools of the Pharaohs as a priestess and is preparing for her initiation. The following text passage is taken from this time in Egypt.


When I have progressed to the point where I have pretty well mastered the art of keeping silence, I stand before Ptahhotep again one evening, and he asks me, “What have you learned during your struggles to keep silent? Have you only learned the art of keeping silence?”

“No, Father, that was simply impossible. While I was struggling with silence, I simultaneously had to struggle with speech. To the same extent that I have mastered silence, I have also mastered speech. This is because silence means not talking, and talking means not keeping silent. I wasn’t able to separate these two things. I’ve discovered that silence and speech are two different sides of the same unit, like the two sides of a coin.”

“Right,” says Ptahhotep. Then he gets up and leads me to one of the great white stone blocks of which the walls of the room are made. Pointing to the smooth, white surface of the stone, he asks, “What do you see on this white surface?”

“Nothing,” I reply.

“And what could I draw on it?”


“Now,” says Ptahhotep, “This Nothing therefore contains Everything. In this condition both together form a perfect unity. Within this unity something can only become recognizable if it becomes separate and distinct from unity.

Now watch as I draw, with green paint, the form of a leaf on this surface. The form of the leaf was already there on this stone surface before I drew it, but you weren’t able to recognize it, because the positive form of the leaf and the negative nature of the background were still at rest within each other. They were completely identical. The form of the leaf was not yet separated from the Everything that is contained in this Nothing. When the leaf appeared on the wall, it became separated from the Everything, and therefore recognizable.

And remember something very important: the fact that this leaf appears in green colour means that it has left behind in the Everything its form in the complementary colour, in this case red, as its invisible, negative picture. Whatever you see as you look about you is only recognizable because it has separated itself from its complementary half and the latter has remained behind in the invisible, unmanifested state.

You can achieve knowledge only through comparing the two sides, positive and negative, which have become separated from each other. As long as these two sides are together, resting in each other, you can’t perceive or recognize anything.

Observe the visible world. It is only recognizable because it has separated itself from the unity in which the Nothing and the Everything are still at rest within each other. In other words, it has separated itself from the absolute unity we call God. The things in the world about us are only recognizable because the positive appears separately from the negative and we can compare the two together. There can be no perception unless unity is split into two halves—one of them manifested and the other, its reflection and complementary half, unmanifested – so that both become recognizable through comparison! Now follow me.”

If you can master all the characteristics and properties applicable throughout the world, you will also be able to pass the initiation examinations.

These twelve sets of opposite characteristics are:

  • keeping silent — talking
  • receptivity — resistance to influence
  • obeying — ruling
  • humility — self confidence
  • lightning-like speed — circumspection
  • to accept everything — to be able to differentiate
  • ability to fight — peace
  • caution — courage
  • to possess nothing — to command everything
  • to have no ties — loyalty
  • contempt for death — regard for life
  • indifference — love”