Q. You sometimes use the words enlightenment and liberation which are normally associated with an Eastern worldview, but then you have also used salvation to describe seemingly the same thing though that is a purely Christian concept. My question is, do you understand these words to have an identical meaning?
A. I must admit to being a bit loose with my terminology at times. For better or worse, I don't come at spirituality from a specifically Christian, Hindu or Buddhist position or from the perspective of any particular form of spirituality, though many have guided my thinking and helped me formulate my own intuitions. I was brought up in a Christian culture and have studied (though not that extensively) many other religions and philosophies. I have learnt something from all of them. However I am not a follower of any of them, and the reason for that is that I feel any belief system would impede the flow of my own understanding, and contaminate the purity of my own perception. It would constitute a barrier between me and the truth, or as much of it I can grasp. Obviously I am not saying I know better than those who formulated the doctrines of these systems, but eventually we all need our insights to be our own if they are to be true for us.
Incidentally, I have sometimes been asked why the Masters came to me as they did. I could fall back on assumed past life connections and these may have existed but I don't know. More to the point is this. I believe that the Masters can come to us (whether in person or, more usually, through the intuition) when we have exhausted all worldly forms of spirituality and are no longer satisfied by any of them, the highest as well as the every day exoteric. This was something like my position at the time I encountered them, and it was also Michael's when he first made contact with the Masters. He had been a Benedictine monk, received initiation from a swami of the Ramakrishna order, explored Buddhism and so on. Nothing answered his inner questions in a way that did not require some kind of compromise with what he felt to be the truth. When there is nothing in the world that truly satisfies your spiritual yearnings then, perhaps, you are ready for instruction by higher beings even if that instruction takes place without you being consciously aware of it.
Be that as it may, the point is that I have taken ideas from various places if they coincide with what I consider to be reality but I don't go along with anything entirely. I imagine that is true for many of us these days when we are exposed to so many different forms of spirituality in a way that would not have been possible until recently. I have used the word enlightenment, even though the Masters never used that word or even discussed a state that might resemble that, because it is the standard word to describe a state of spiritual arrival and/or completion, and it does describe something real which is the transcending of identification with the world of becoming. But, actually, I don't think of spirituality in terms of enlightenment. As you say, it is a specifically Eastern, in fact, Buddhist idea. The same goes for liberation or realization. I use these terms because they are common nowadays and they do mean something which most spiritual aspirants understand. But in many ways I consider the idea of enlightenment to be potentially spiritually counter-productive because it puts so much focus on the self and its aims, in reality if not in theory. It is also responsible for massive amounts of illusion and self-deception. So for me a more interesting way of looking at the spiritual journey is in terms of initiation though I freely admit this has very similar risks. But at least it recognises that there are stages on this journey, and it is more realistic to aim for the next stage than to think you might be ready for the grand finale straightaway.
So what is initiation? Many traditions include this concept but I am not referring to anything bestowed by an earthly teacher. Nor to any ceremony or rite that forms part of the trappings of a particular religion or cult. Esoterically considered, initiation is said to relate to stages in the process of purification and disidentification from form on the one hand, and an increase in sensitivity plus growth of intuitive awareness on the other. The first three initiations are sometimes linked to the successive mastery by the soul of its physical, emotional and mental vehicles, but I think this is too simplistic as we address all three aspects of our expressed being at the same time when we tread the path, even if the focus may be on one or another at different stages. I would say that initiation can best be thought of as an opening up of spiritual consciousness and detachment from worldly concerns. It entails the transfer of the centre of awareness from the mind to the soul. That is to say, from the thinking, feeling and doing parts of our nature (which, properly considered, are external to our real self and only exist for the purposes of the expression of that self) to the spiritual consciousness that lies behind them. Despite erroneous claims that enlightenment can happen to anyone at any time, this is a long process and the various initiations mark stages in that process, stages during which the disciple becomes progressively detached from the belief that this world is the real world. He doesn't regard it as false or an illusion (that is actually an intellectual position rather than a spiritual one), but sees it as the manifestation in form of a formless reality, and having no purpose other than as a), a school for the development of consciousness (this is its purely functional side), and b), a platform for the expression of spiritual truth which includes goodness and beauty. That is the side relating to creativity. God is creative and so should we be though our creativity, if it is to be worth anything, should reflect eternal realities and not just be a shallow self- expression.
This world, then, might be said to have a threefold purpose. It exists primarily as a training ground for souls, but it is also a canvas on which to paint beauty and an arena in which to demonstrate goodness. That is why those who use the fact of a higher reality to reject this world and dismiss qualitative differences within it are mistaken. The world may not be ultimately real but it is part of reality and should be made to correspond to what is really real as much as possible. Form is not truth but some forms reflect more of truth than others which is why a stone is not the same as a lump of gold even if both are manifestations of the One Life.
An often forgotten point is that it is the soul that receives initiation not the incarnated person so much of initiation relates to the soul on its own plane. However some of that will inevitably make an appearance in the disciple's earthly consciousness. The first initiation marks the point at which one's initial searching and practice has borne some fruit. The prizes of the world having been experienced and lost their allure, the disciple has looked up and seen beyond this world. He has pursued the path and made some headway on it. The spiritual current is now established in his heart and he is no longer just a seeker but a person of some real knowledge and attainment. But he is still on the outside looking in. He is still a personality, albeit one aware of the soul and able to demonstrate something of its light. His task now is to bring that personality more and more into line with the soul, in effect transferring the centre of consciousness from one to the other, so that gradually he becomes not a personality aware of the soul but a soul expressing itself through a personality. This is said to be the point at which the third initiation can be taken. The disciple is henceforth a fully spiritual being in that he has realised and can be the soul in incarnation. This is a high stage of development, one that the majority of spiritual teachers in the world have still not reached.
But it is not enough. Now everything the disciple has achieved must be given up. The perfection of his being must be renounced and placed on the sacrificial pyre. He must be nothing and nobody. Because the same patterns repeat themselves at different turns of the evolutionary spiral, this experience, which is the culminating point of an individual soul's whole spiritual development, will not be entirely new. The disciple will have suffered abandonment, experienced darkness and been required to let go and give up many times before in the cycle of his earthly incarnations. But this is the crucifixion of the soul, the moment when it is required that you give up not something but everything. You hold back nothing for yourself, indeed nothing of yourself. You give up all. And that is the moment of release.
The soul is now identified with its Maker but, because identification does not mean identity, it remains itself, though in a totally transfigured form with individuality henceforth more a circumference than a centre.
This is the scenario of initiation. Whether it is literally the path trodden by every soul or not is of secondary importance. It is symbolically true for everyone. It is the way of the soul, and it culminates, as all initiations do, in death and rebirth, a rebirth which is enlightenment, liberation and salvation all at one and the same time.