While Hick concedes that often salvation is defined in specific terms that require adherence to a single tradition in order to be attained, he argues that the fundamental concept of salvation is generic, indicating a radical change from one imperfect state of being to another, more perfect state of being. In addition to all sharing the same concept of being in a less perfect state here on earth, Hick points out that each tradition also points to the concept that the journey to the more perfect state can be started from the current plane of existence and understanding.
In making this inquiry, Hick illustrates how the process must, by necessity, be generally empirical in nature as the only means we have of judging spirituality or salvation is through observation of its manifestation in human relationships. “The word ‘spiritual’ which occurs above is notoriously vague. but I am using it to refer to a quality or, better, an orientation which we can discern in those individuals whom we call saints” (Hick, 1988: 3). Again, the use of the Christian term is explained to have a more generic, general meaning that vaguely refers to individuals manifesting a closer connectedness with God or, as Hick terms it, Reality. This is primarily manifested in a deep change in personal orientation from one centered in self to one centered in the real, either through removal from society or from greater involvement in it. The way in which this judgment regarding who is saintly and who is not is made is considered to be nearly universal, primarily expressed in the generic concept of having and expressing love or compassion for others. Applying this idea to the world’s populations and religions find a similar valuation of the spiritual, but also a sadly similar level of commitment to them.