Consciousness is the process of witnessing Nature. American biologist George Mashour: “Consciousness is not something we see. It’s something through which we see.”
Consciousness is the facility for awareness: the ability to perceive. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle: “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness.”
Consciousness is neither active nor passive. It is instead an interested witnessing.
There are nominally 7 states of consciousness. In the waking state, there are 4 levels of consciousness.
The 4 nominal states of human consciousness are awake, asleep, dreaming, and transcendence. The first 3 you are doubtlessly familiar with.
The 4th state of consciousness – transcendence – exhibits as mental silence. For most people, transcendence is fleeting when it does occur. For instance, transcendence may happen when you are fatigued, or the mind otherwise momentarily lapses into relaxation.
In the transcendental state, the mind rests as consciousness communes with universal-Ĉonsciousness. Universal-Ĉonsciousness is the unified field which localizes into a consciousness for each life form. That all localized consciousnesses emanate from a unitary Ĉonsciousness is how the mirage of an objective world is maintained by coherence. Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Our minds are just waves on the ocean of universal Ĉonsciousness.”
Habituating your mind-body to transcendence facilitates elevating the waking state of consciousness to a level higher than that of the ignorance that pervades the Collective of humanity.
The 3 elevated states of consciousness are enlightenment, also called quietude, coherence consciousness, and realization or unity consciousness. These higher levels correspond with tightness of coupling by an individual consciousness to universal Ĉonsciousness.
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Let’s turn back for a moment, to elaborate on the level of consciousness traditionally labeled as “ignorance.” In ignorance nattermind dominates.
95% of people in the world are uncomfortable sitting quietly alone because their monkey-mind preys upon them. American psychologist Malia Mason, speaking from her own level of consciousness: “We lack a comfort in just being alone with our thoughts. We’re constantly looking to the external world for some sort of entertainment.” While expressing the discomfort of solitude, Mason misses that thought itself – the intrusion of nattermind – is the source of discomfort.
It is fittingly ironic that nattermind creates the incentive for its subjugation. For it is the discomfort of monkey-mind that drives the ignorant toward relief – to seek solace in silence. American guru Byron Katie: “Nothing outside you can ever give you what you’re looking for.”
Not knowing reality, ignorant people believe that the material world is real. Ignorance is the prevailing circumstance of the Collective of humanity. The state of world civilization and degradation of the natural world are the inexorable consequences of the Collective living in ignorance. Here is a passage in Katha Upanishad, an ancient Vedic text: “Fools dwelling in ignorance, yet imagining themselves wise and learned, go round and round in crooked ways, like the blind led by the blind.”
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States of consciousness may occur simultaneously. Daydreaming, for instance, is dreaming while awake.
Alternately, you can be so fatigued that you are practically asleep while awake: barely aware of what’s going on. This state of exhaustion is typically transitional: so tired that you unintentionally fall asleep.
Transcendence while awake is the opposite of exhaustion: fully aware with easy energy. This state of consciousness is quietude. Abiding in this tranquil state is the level of consciousness called enlightenment.
In enlightenment, the mind is quiet while awareness is fully engaged. Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: “Enlightenment is an experience of inner calmness, that quiet state of least excitation, even when we are dynamically busy. We live free from all stresses.”
The 5th state of consciousness, and the 1st elevated level above ignorance, is enlightenment. Enlightenment offers sustained inner silence that is quite distinct from merely being awake in ignorance, where nattermind is a frequent nuisance.
In quietude there is intrinsic contentment. Bliss is an aspect of the reward system universal Ĉonsciousness provides for those in quietude – a signification of attainment.
The practice of meditation aims at quietude. Nisargadatta Maharaj: “When thoughts cease, the mind naturally turns to what is truly beyond the mind: the infinite Ĉonsciousness.” Enlightenment is the first stage of living transcendentally.
Coherence consciousness is the 2nd elevated level away from ignorance. Coherence consciousness is characterized by awareness of the unity of Nature. Those who speak of “peak experiences” are typically referring to moments in coherence consciousness.
Realization is a unification of individual consciousness with universal Ĉonsciousness – the epitome of witnessing. The localized mind-body system intrudes on what is otherwise an indescribable experience of rich perception and intuition.
Maharaj: “Realization is but the opposite of ignorance. To take the world as real and one’s self as unreal is ignorance, the cause of sorrow. To know the self as the only reality and all else as temporal and transient is freedom, peace, and joy. It is all very simple. Instead of seeing things as imagined, learn to see them as they are. When you can see everything as it is, you will also see yourself as you are.”
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The next lesson explores psychospace: the inner universe our mind creates to construe, and thereby evaluate, what we experience.