Q:I am wondering if the So’ham mantra requires initiation, as many mantras do. I am also wondering if the Om Namah Shivaya mantra requires initiation.
A: Certainly neither So’ham nor Om require initiation because they are innate in each sentient being.
As far as ishta mantras such as Om Namah Shivaya are concerned, opinions differ. For example Ma Anandamayi said no initiation was necessary. (She also said that the usual mantric forms are not necessary–that the simple name of a deity is sufficient.) Paramhansa Nityananda of Ganeshpuri often recommended the japa of mantras, especially Om Namah Shivaya, but never gave initiation to anyone.
Practice can reveal what is true for the individual yogi.
It is very important to understand that it is utterly erroneous to say that initiation empowers a mantra. That is impossible, since the mantra is already divine sound (shabda) and contains all power. However, initiation can empower the sadhaka and render his various bodies more responsive to the inherent power of a mantra.
Here is what the Reverend Gerry Nangle said in her five star Amazon review:
“This book describes the nature of the limitless divine and offers practical, simple ways to rediscover it within the self. Parts of sacred scriptures are included that enlarge the theory in the book and also resonate somewhere in the self. I found myself wanting to take time to ponder the scriptures and eager to read ahead at the same time.”