What is Consciousness? – Part 2February 11, 2013
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Going beyond the individual ego-sense moves us into several stages of development of consciousness itself. First as the observer, then with the observation of the world becoming, and then united as oneness. Then we move into stages beyond consciousness.
These stages of consciousness may be a new field in the west but it’s one with a rich history in the east. However, history is full of lost understanding. A great teacher or revivalist comes along with not only the understanding but also the means for people to have the direct experience themselves. For several hundred years, there are many adepts and much advanced development. Buddha, Jesus, Shankara, and many others light the pages of history. However, with time and generations, the means are somehow distorted and the development withers. Within a few generations, the understanding becomes conceptual rather than lived and then becomes dogma. What was once alive becomes instruction into what to believe. This is true of many of our traditions and religions today, east and west. The truth is there but it’s been misunderstood by minds trying to understand what they have not experienced. How can you understand the taste of a dragon fruit if you’ve never eaten fruit?
As with any human development, the process is not linear and tidy but rather unfolds uniquely for each person. Puberty is a good example. The same underlying process unfolds for all to the same general result. But how it is experienced varies widely and it helps to have a sense of what’s going on.
While there are many experiences and sub-stages that may arise, the first major stage is known as Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness. In this stage, we shift from identification with the individual self or ego to the cosmic Self. Other traditions may refer to this as a shift to no-self. Many describe things like “awakening to their true nature.” The inner awakeness of consciousness is continuous throughout the daily cycles of waking and sleep. We are a witness or observer to all and ever awake, even in deep sleep. Science confirms that in witnessing sleep state, the EEG alpha waves of alertness are blended in with the delta waves of deep sleep.
This shift is often characterized by a sense of freedom or liberation and being unlimited or boundless. We are a deep inner peace and silence. As the lively edge of consciousness is bliss, a profound inner happiness will arise. Thus, it is the Buddhist nirvana or sat chit ananda, absolute bliss consciousness. As noted above, this unfolds in steps uniquely for each person.
Another characteristic of this stage is that we now know ourselves as unchanging, limitless being. The inner world is stable and real and the outer world comes to be seen as an illusion or mirage. Thus it can reverse our sense of what is real.
For a long time, it has been thought that such development was a high ideal, only possible with many lifetimes of arduous practice and austerity. However, times are changing. Many thousands of people have had this shift in recent years and the numbers are growing rapidly. For example, there are now several weekly interview shows that chat with the “ordinary awakened.” Most such people are quietly going on with their lives, deepening into silence and bliss. But if the millions of meditators are having the effect they are, imagine the effect of thousands enlivening consciousness all the time.
Coming back to the opening question, we now know ourselves as consciousness but what is it? Those living this may have a nice answer like “limitless aware being.” But even here, we are still inside the house, getting to know the rooms of consciousness. Many beautiful expressions of this stage exist but all point only to the lived experience, not the deeper source of it.
Living this stage, we are effectively meditating 24-7. Progress often rapidly accelerates. A new stage dawns as the focus of development shifts to the refinement of perception and the awakening of the heart. In ayurvedic terms, we are living atman (Self) so now we develop more sattva (purity/clarity).
While the prior and later stages start with a realization or shift in our sense of who we are, this stage can begin earlier or later and has its realization at the climax instead, after the next stage of unity. This climax is known as God Realization.
All those layers of the world between the source of thought in consciousness and physical objects gradually become known: sound/vibration, geometry, fields, and form. We come to literally experience that the fine vibrations in consciousness that give rise to thoughts and feelings are the same fine vibrations that give rise to form and the apparently solid world. With our senses, we perceive quantum mechanics in action and watch and hear the world being continuously formed before us. The world shifts from being seen as an illusion to being recognized as Lila, a play of the divine.
We may infer from this that consciousness IS the unified field of physics. However, let’s be a little more precise. The lively inner surface of consciousness is known subjectively as universal mind and objectively as the unified field from which quantum fluctuations of the vacuum arise. As such, it is universal mind that is the subjective equivalent to the unified field. But universal mind is non-separate from consciousness, just as waves are one with the ocean. We could say this is the difference between surface dynamics and the quiet depths. In fact, this field is often described subjectively as an infinite golden ocean. To quote Donovan’s song, “There is an ocean of vast proportion, And she flows within ourselves.”
These fine levels we’re getting to know directly are where artists find their muse and scientists get breakthroughs. You’ve undoubtedly had some experience of getting “downloads” or a sudden understanding or “aha!” This stage is like that, only more so. Unlike occasional experiences, once a value opens to you it remains available at all times. More and more values or “rooms” open to our perception. It is the awakening of the inner guru.
In this phase, there are two primary modes. Through the intellect (impersonal) we experience and understand the fundamental laws and principles of nature. Through the heart (personal), we see these same laws personified, hence the many ancient stories of gods dreaming the world into existence and angels managing creation. The mode is just a chosen orientation. Each mode has its advantages.
We can see that this phase is the most variable subjectively due to the wide range of prior refinement, orientation, cultural factors, mode, and simply where we put our attention. In the mind-dominated west, the refinement is often happening later than historically. But in any case, the profound love and intelligence at the foundation of creation becomes unmistakably recognized.
Personalized, the love and intelligence are described as the divine Mother-creator and Father watching over. In the east, they are Shakti and Shiva. From them, Narayana (first born) and all experience and creation arise. In this, you may recognize a variation of the Holy Trinity of Christianity. In other words, not just something to believe but something that can be directly experienced.
Part 3 >