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SEVEN INITIATION ROUTESeven initiation routes

In my book 'The Shaman and the Manager,' there is a chapter in which the elements are described as the mystical primal forces necessary for authentic leadership. Based on these forces, we have established our leadership summer school named 'Seven.' The number seven is relevant for anyone seeking the depth of the mystical path.

Seven is a sacred number in several cultures. It symbolizes the completeness of a matured human being. For those who want to fully develop themselves, the number seven is crucial. It represents the seven initiation paths a person can take. These are seven journeys into the secrets of nature that can only be truly known by experiencing them. Among Native Americans, these paths are represented in the medicine wheel. In our Western world, they are known as the elements 'fire,' 'air,' 'water,' 'earth,' and 'ether,' which, through alchemy, laid the foundation for Western science. The fifth element 'ether,' from which our word ‘quintessence' is derived, consists of three primal forces: father, mother, and child, together shaping the magical space of life.

How can we modern humans apply this ancient system of the elements?

At the very least, you can enhance your problem-solving abilities. We often tend to hold onto our preferred element when solving problems, even though that element is often the cause of the problem. Many problems arise, for example, from the excessive use of the element of air, our analytical ability that views everything from a distance. In personal life, we encounter this in relationships where women accuse men of trivializing their feelings. In the societal field, we see climate issues and the gap between citizens and politics as expressions of excessive use of the element of air. Strangely, we are inclined to 'solve' these problems with our analytical abilities, which is why they persist. So, we can at least use the system of elements as a tool to approach life more flexibly.

But the elements represent much more. They embody the magic of life, that elusive force that gives some people more depth and wisdom than others.

From a shamanic perspective, it's simple. Authentic individuals are often 'in their element' because they dared to develop elements other than their preferred one. They stepped out of their comfort zone and embraced adventure, thus becoming qualified to guide others on an adventure with wisdom gained through experience. In shamanism, the adage is 'eat your own medicine.' Only when you're willing to step beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone do you have the natural authority to lead others into renewal.

Authentic guide has initiated themselves in all elements. In ancient times, this was associated with specific initiation rites; in modern times, it may be less explicit but still relevant.


This volatile element represents the mental strength of humans. The initiation process involves developing intelligence where the external world is known to wisdom where the inner world is known. Are you only intelligent, or are you also wise?


This element symbolizes willpower. The initiation path goes from exercising the small will, perseverance, to accepting the will of the whole. Are you only driven by your individual will, or do you also know your passion?


This element symbolizes the world of experiences. The initiation process goes from the realm of emotions where one's own pain is protected to the world of sensitivity where one's vulnerability is revealed. Do you only react appropriately, or can you also be sensitive?


We are all children of the Great Mother, the 'mater' of matter. This initiation path goes from materialism, where matter is manipulated, to grounding, where all other life is approached as equal. Are you only materialistic, or are you grounded on Earth?


This element represents three initiation paths that collectively define the spiritual space of humans. While all previous elements represent the existential world of phenomena that come and go, ether symbolizes essence, that which remains. The great father energy represents the initiation path of unity consciousness, the great 'Now.' The great mother energy represents the path of multiplicity consciousness, the great 'Here.' The child energy represents total 'Being.'

The seven initiation paths have no specific order. Everyone walks their unique path in life. All these paths lead to the realization of the true essence of life: BEING IN THE HERE AND NOW!

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