Visions and Spiritual Initiation?


 

Teachers perform spiritual initiations in many Spiritual Traditions. The means of giving or receiving spiritual initiation takes many forms.

Initiations my happen through ritual, touch, glance, through lectures, chants, speaking with a teacher, a class, or through sitting in meditation by oneself using a mantra or chant given by a teacher for the purpose of actualizing an initiation, or through sitting in the presence of a spiritual teacher who guides a meditation. Sometimes the most powerful of our Initiations occur when we are alone.

Some people experience spiritual initiation as seeing a vision that includes the quality of seeing light or forms or symbols or other realms of existence. Seeing Light or having a vision is not the whole of a spiritual initiation, however.

True spiritual initiation causes a profound shift in one's perceptions and awareness of what is. Seeing is only a part of initiation; seeing may be a beginning, but seeing something is not the whole. We see only in part.

Thus St. Paul said:

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Seeing something does not produce a profound understanding of God, rather, seeing is a beginning - initiation means beginning. The word itself, initiate means to begin. Initiations are beginnings. True knowledge may only be realized by the Soul. The knowledge of what we experience spiritually unfolds through spiritual practice.

This picture by Carravaggio depicts St. Paul having an experience of the Light of Christ on the road to Damascus. It was an experience of the Light of Christ that changed his life. As his spiritual journey continued, he began to teach of the Love of Christ and God.

 

Initiation is the door opened and then there is the unending unfoldment, continuing and ongoing. The unfolding of an initiation takes place on many levels: mental and emotional, intuitional and yes, through the physical and spiritual senses. The senses are the doorway to the spiritual senses, thus, in many cases the spiritual teacher will bless the body. Following an initiation is the aspect of Assimilation. Assimilation takes place over time.
Initiation begins as an inspired moment. Following, according to one's focus, a profound shift occurs in one's awareness. The inspiration is the cause of the shift and is a product of the Holy Spirit which resides in each one of us. The Presence of the Holy Spirit and its movement are the actual defining factor in any Enlightenment experience, in this sense meaning, that in true Initiation, one experiences a real spiritual transformation at all levels through the intuitive and mental faculties -- as in -- "when a fish climbs out of the water it is no longer a fish". And then, even after, what we can conceive of as Full Initiation, well, there is always more. Initiation is the beginning and then there is the unfoldment of the Fullness of the Initiation through experience and Assimilation.
For example, Ascension might be becoming fully light and then there is another level.... and still another... and another... we are eternal... and then there are dimensions... on and on... so in any discussion of Initiations, our perception and ability to discuss them, can only be limited to our ability to perceive of the particular spiritual event.

 

My Buddhist friend tells me, the Buddhists define many more than the following, but in the Western Tradition we confine ourselves to actualizing what are called in some Western Traditions, the Major Initiations: The Awakening (we celebrate this with a Baptism of Light), Illumination, Self Realization, God Realization.
These initiations are very similar to those discussed by Evelyn Underhill in Mysticism, in Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Bucke, in The Portable Jung by Carl G. Jung, Joseph Campbell (Editor), R. F. C. Hull (Translator), in The Varieties of Religious Experience by William JamesWilliam, by The Buddhists in Kalachakra Tantra: Rite of Initiation, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Jeffrey Hopkins and written about by so many others.
To share these experiences more fully than below I think, would get in the way of those who may experience these significant spiritual events a little differently, for each of us perceives God and Creation a little differently, so I will choose my words as carefully as I can and I will try to speak only in generalities.
Generally, most people experience some spiritual variation of the following in terms of describing sequence, although some go through all of it at once or so rapidly that there is apparently no means of determining a sequence. What I am describing is not the whole fullness of what may experienced personally and with others, but only some ... inklings. And of course these are intellectual descriptions, so the following may be somewhat lacking in terms of exactly defining the actual inspirational experiences.
Initiations can only be hinted at in words.