I need to note that I am using the term Neopagan as a reference to any mode of modern religious expression which uses many of the motifs and religious practices of ancient Western pre-Christian animism, pantheism, and polytheism. Within this umbrella, this article speaks to any traditions that observe a three tiered initiation procedure. I am purposely vague, wishing to convey archetypal currents of initiation and responsibility.
With the exception of family traditions, all those who begin their journey come from the same pool of people. The Neopaganism has the term "Cowan", meaning somebody who is an outsider or uninitiated. This does not mean that the outsiders are without latent abilities.
I was practicing therapeutic touch when I started my Reiki training. While the working was similar, the guiding of energy and bodily frequencies toward healing, the methods of therapeutic touch and Reiki are different in emphasis. Another word for emphasis is intent. Intent is the direction of focus for a path. Those who have not chosen a path, or the path has not chosen them, will have abilities or knowledge sympathetic to a path, but they will not be aligned with the tradition.
The pool of people available to pursue the paths available is very large. How are applicants chosen? Typically there is a pre-initiation stage that provides a testing before initiation begins. The student declares their desire to follow a tradition and a teacher considers the request. Compatibility between both is measured as the student's desire is measured and weighed. Some paths, such as Reiki, put a monetary price on the training. This echoes the teacher's request for dedication as the person must give up funds to start or continue training. Ideally, there is a moment when both the student and the teacher judge each other, and either can stop the transition to the next step. If all is well, the student moves forward on the path.
Pathworking can occur in the archetypal steps of three. This occurs across many teaching traditions. From my own experience, and observations, I will put forward a theory of why a three-step teaching path both prevalent and why it works. The concept to be presented is very general, and if one looks hard enough, exceptions will be found. At the core of the general model are these three levels of training:
1. Learning - Alignment of Student to Intent of Path - Preliminary Lessons. The student is brought into the tradition.
2. Doing - Knowledge is applied. The core of the path's teachings are conveyed and practiced. The student follows the tradition.
3. Being - Knowledge is applied in daily life. A responsibility is given for the student to become the teacher and continue the tradition.
These three levels of training are often called 1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree. This is true in both Reiki and Neopagan training. Shamanism has levels that are variable upon culture, but there is a loose correlation to these degrees.