Illuman’s Best-Kept Secret: The Initiator Program

The Illuman Initiator Program seems to be one of Illuman’s best-kept secrets. I participated in the east coast MROP Initiator Program this May because I’m a co-Convener and this seemed easier than becoming part of the team. I knew I would be providing support for the retreat, but I had no idea what to expect beyond that.  

As it says on the Illuman website, the Initiator Program is designed to give an initiated man the opportunity to deepen his understanding of initiation while walking with and holding the initiation experience of other men. Since Initiators are men who have already been through their own Rites of Passage, this program does not require the kind of secrecy and surprise that benefits the MROP experience. And yet many still don’t know much about it. This lack of awareness hurts potential Initiators and Illuman alike. Of my 60 brothers from our 2019 MROP, only six returned for this experience. We were joined by six other men who did their rites previously, some over ten years earlier. Clearly, many Initiated men are not getting the message about this opportunity to revisit the rites in an even deeper way.  

With the exception of two unfortunate men who contracted Covid-19 during the event, each Initiator found this experience nothing short of amazing. Several of us have discussed doing this again in other regions. (Ireland has an MROP planned for 2023!) 

We were blessed by our three Elders: Terry Chapman, Bob Sabath, and Glen Siegel. Their thoughtful planning and ritual designs were eclipsed only by their in-Council questions, comments, and mirroring capabilities.  

This work set us up well to “hold space” for the Initiates during the event. This communal contemplative practice, in service of our new brothers doing their inner work, was new to most of us. There was something about these three factors—communal, contemplative, service—that took us to a deeper, more open space.  

Most notable was our powerful experience during the grief rituals. This is a long and emotional day for Initiates. Terry Chapman’s grief talk enrolled everyone, including us. As space holders and observers, we could sense inhibitions lowering, and hearts opening, in all participants.  

When the Initiators convened later in the day, one man expressed what we all felt. “I will never look at other people the same way I have in the past. Now I will see and know there is pain and suffering in each person, that we are all part of.”  As Richard Rohr has taught us, “There is only one suffering and we participate in it.” 

In a manner similar to the MROP, the full impact of the Initiator experience cannot be adequately described. Of course, it is different for each person. Beyond holding space for the new initiates, this program also provided opportunity for our own deeper work. How much richer it would have been with even more initiated brothers alongside us. 

It’s not too late to register as an Initiator for any of the upcoming 2022 MROPs. I hope you’ll consider it.  

Jim Burns
Illuman DC Co-Convener