Attempting to define the landscape of consciousness is like separating the colors of a rainbow. There are a multitude of shades. ― Guru Tua
Consciousness Is Like a Rainbow
Defining these terms is a good first step. However, this is more difficult than you would think. That’s because like a rainbow, consciousness is a kaleidoscope of colors. The colors of our perception overlap and sometimes run together. Yet, most people live their entire lives in the three basic states. These are waking, sleeping, and dreaming. So, they miss a huge range of other possibilities.
We can expand the range of awareness if we choose to do so. Many people don’t realize they have this option. So, they live out their lives within a narrow bandwidth of perception. The goal of this article is to help you better understand the different possibilities of this rainbow of consciousness. We hope it stimulates your curiosity to find out more about the other colors.
Ordinary and Non-Ordinary Reality
First, we have two big buckets of perception, ordinary and non-ordinary reality. There are many philosophies and ways to define and describe these two concepts. We’ll try to simplify the definitions.
- Ordinary reality is the things appear to exist in the corporeal body, where time and space “appear” to exist.
- Non-ordinary reality is what we experience outside of the corporeal. This includes our thoughts, day-dreaming, and dreams while you sleep. All of this takes place outside of the realm of normal time and space. Think about it. For now, we won’t open the Pandora’s Box of concerning whether time and space are “real” or an illusion of the mind.
Three Basic Partitions of Consciousness
Next, we have three basic partitions of consciousness, waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The normal waking state of consciousness is the primary platform of perception. The default setting is ‘ordinary reality’.
Then we have sleeping and dreaming states. Sleeping and dreaming are common experiences. The dream state is very interesting. It gives us proof of non-ordinary reality. When we sleep and dream, we are generally not aware of time or space. When we dream we enter a landscape of non-ordinary reality. We don’t need drugs to induce an altered state. Next, let’s look at each of these three and build upon the possibilities.
The normal waking state is the like RAM setting of a computer. It is the platform for human experience. In the normal waking state, the brain frequency operates in the beta range of 13 to 20 Hz. The normal range when we are asleep is in the delta range of around 1 to 3 cycles per second. The lines of demarcation between these basic states are often imperceptible. We are rarely aware of the shift from one state to the next. This is an important point that we will come back to later. Let’s talk about sleeping and dreaming for a moment.
The Analogy of Someone Who Has Never Slept
Let’s imagine you met someone who has never fallen asleep. They have never had a dream. How could we explain to them how to “fall” asleep, and the benefits of doing so? If they asked you, “how do you know you are asleep?”
You’d have to tell them you don’t know you are asleep. That’s because when you are asleep, you are unaware of time. In fact, several hours pass and you have no experience of time passing.
You simply wake up refreshed and rested. The only thing that could happen while you are asleep is that you might have dreams. Okay, now you have to explain what dreams are. This leads to more trouble because some dreams can be unpleasant and/or intense hallucinations known as nightmares. Yes, the most frightening things you could imagine. And, they seem real.
At this point in your discussion on sleeping and dreaming, the other person is becoming more than just hesitant. They don’t want to attempt sleeping. Not only is a waste of time, but they “lose” awareness of their body. Add to this the possibility of having some frightening realistic experience and the answer is “no.”
These are the same excuses people use for not exploring other states of consciousness. They don’t have any other similar experience to compare. So, it is scary.
Altering, Expanding, Reaching Higher States
Before we delve into the details of each, here are the short answers:
- Altering consciousness involves changing or manipulating the waking state of perception. For example, an anesthesiologist will administer drug compounds to alter your consciousness. This alters our ability to feel physical pain.
- Expanding awareness involves a “eureka” experience of additional perception. An example is the dream state. Most people don’t remember their dreams. So, if we use techniques to remember our dreams, we expand the range of awareness and perception.
- Reaching higher states of consciousness is a partition that is different from waking, dreaming, or sleeping. A state of consciousness with unique physiological and perceptive characteristics.
When people talk about an altered state of consciousness, they are referring to a distorted perception of the waking state. The distortion is typically a response to some stimuli – such as ingesting psychoactive drugs or plants. Because the altered state is caused by the external element, the altered state is typically limited in duration by the effect of the stimuli.
Many indigenous cultures use repetitive percussive or tonal sounds to produce altered states. Some use a combination of sound, pharmacology, and ritual. These practices have their roots in the shamanic traditions of the past. Meditation, chanting and the spiritual journey also create altered states of consciousness. And, these spiritual technologies may also provide gateways into higher states of consciousness.
Some people experience altered states because of a traumatic event. Near-death experiences often involve a psychedelic altered state. A medical condition like epilepsy can also cause an altered state. It depends on several factors. Depriving the body of water, oxygen, sleep, can cause an altered hallucinogenic state. Some effects of the altered state are predictable. For instance, the use of alcohol produces a predictable effect on perception and other major bodily functions.
As was mentioned earlier expanding awareness normally involves a personal “eureka” experience. Remembering more of our dreams is the easiest way of expanding the range of awareness.
Another example is using the analytical mind to grasp how our mind works. The best tool we’ve found for this the Enneagram of Personality. This is a test which outlines the nine basic components of your personality. Everyone is a little different but we all have a default setting.
Yet another example is the perspective you get by studying basic logic. The analytical powers of the mind can transform our perception. This is a helpful tool in spiritual exploration. Training the mind to use logical processes helps us sort out the facts from the fiction. This strategy isn’t new. Many ancient cultures trained common sense along with other more esoteric methods.
Reaching Higher States of Consciousness
Higher states of consciousness are sometimes more difficult. They often deal with perceptual elements well outside the range of normal reality. In this case, it’s the differences in the worldview of an insect and man. Both occupy the same world but with vastly different perceptions of reality. There are two higher states that we can talk about in the next section on the Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness.
The Non-Ordinary Range of Awareness
Now, we will add two more states to our basic three ordinary states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, and dreaming). These two new states are Transcendental Consciousness and the Shamanic State of Consciousness.
Transcendental Consciousness is known by several names. It is sometimes called the 4th state, pure or bliss state of consciousness. This is a partition of consciousness that has unique metabolic characteristics. The most notable is an increased coherence of brainwave patterns and frequency operation in the theta-wave area around 4 to 7 Hz.
This state is most notable for its profound state of rest. The mind remains alert but without thought. Scholars from Joseph Campbell to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi describe as a state of bliss consciousness. This is because you remain self-aware without having the normal inner dialogue. The process used to reach this state of consciousness is Japa Meditation. Maharishi calls this process Transcendental Meditation.
Earlier we talked about how most people do not perceive the transitions between different states. Some people have this ability. They are often called gifted. But, you can learn to do this too. All you need to do is practice the methods of meditation noted above. This will show you how consciousness is like a rainbow. After practicing meditation you will begin to notice these shifts. This will lead to the realization that pure consciousness is beneath all states of awareness. This is one way you know that you are expanding awareness.
Shamanic State of Consciousness
This is the fifth state of non-ordinary consciousness. Michael Harner, an anthropologist and modern shaman calls this state, is the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). In this state, the brainwaves are also in the theta-wave area. Besides being self-aware, you project yourself into a “visionary state” of consciousness. You are both the director and participant within a landscape of non-ordinary reality.
This state is the most ancient form of spiritual practice known. The Shamanic Journey has similarities across many cultures. It is the most likely the source of modern religion. To make it more acceptable it has been rebranded as guided meditation, creative visualization, and mindscape. The Shamanic State of Consciousness is significant for several characteristics. The person in SSC controls when, where, and how long they travel. By setting the goal of their journey, they provide a level of freedom and control.
Combining the States of Consciousness
So, now we have what you could call our five primary states of consciousness. These include the three basic states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming. To these, we’ve added two other higher states. These are transcendental consciousness and the Shamanic State of Consciousness. These are like the primary colors of a rainbow. There are many shades in between these five. They fade and overlap one another. Combining these states is also one of the natural goals of awareness.
The Sixth State of Consciousness
To show another example of how consciousness is like a rainbow of different shades, let’s add a sixth state of consciousness. When we combine the waking state with the transcendent state, and we have “cosmic consciousness.” This combines two states of awareness. One from ordinary and one from non-ordinary reality. In the sixth state, the non-ordinary state of bliss consciousness is carried into the waking state of ordinary reality.
One achieves this state through regular Japa or TM meditation. The mind is naturally drawn to the state of bliss. So, it is a natural progression to bring this quality into the waking state of ordinary reality. The resulting experience is what we refer to as “witnessing.” In this state of consciousness, there is an expansion of the mind’s ability to perceive two realities simultaneously. There is a conscious awareness separate from the corporeal body while at the same time being fully “present” in mind and body. (Sorry, but it’s like explaining to someone that has never slept what it is like to dream.)
This 6th state provides experiential proof that reality is a collective holographic construct. There is also the experiential realization that “we” are eternal and one with this reality as the Observer and participant. These realizations are often the goals of some religious constructs. And, because of this, some religions have preserved the processes for attaining this goal.
Lucid Dreaming the Seventh State?
Some believe that lucid dreaming should be the seventh state. This is because it combines or overlaps two or possibly three states of consciousness. In lucid dreaming one is present, they “know” they are dreaming. This is the same as the waking state. And, they are also in the REM partition of the dreaming state, while actively directing their reality. This is similar to the Shamanic State where you create and direct the experence. What do you think?
There you have the basic landscape of the states of consciousness. Now hopefully you can grasp how consciousness is like a rainbow. And, we haven’t even talked about the non-linear nature of time. We hope this helps you understand the shapes and colors of the rainbow of perception.
Our mission is to spread the processes for expanding awareness and opening the doors to higher states of consciousness. We call these ancient techniques “spiritual technologies.” To do this, we use a blended learning process that allows for the teaching of multiple techniques in a short period. We don’t change the technique or traditional framework. Teaching several techniques together is a very synergistic learning process that produces consistent learning outcomes. This process mirrors what Joseph Campbell termed “The Hero’s Journey.”
Are you are ready to take the next steps in your spiritual journey? We can help. We deliver the above spiritual technologies using a blended learning process.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Michael Harner, Wikipedia