Are there ten separate partitions of awareness? If there are, how do we reach them?
Ten Levels of Consciousness
People tend to think of all partitions of consciousness like a strict hierarchy, level upon level. But, what if that’s not the way the expression of consciousness structures our awareness? Perhaps it’s not a strict hierarchy but like plants growing from the ground with several connections to the earth?
“People are doing the best that they can from their own level of consciousness.” ― Deepak Chopra
When we talk about consciousness, we start with the there default states we all can recognize. These three are waking, sleeping, and dreaming. These three default states are important because they provide our bodies with the necessary connection to consciousness. They are three plugs in a pegboard with many other holes.
Most people think of these three states as separate entities like verticle silos on a bar graph. Waking is not on top of sleeping. However, some people see dreaming as a part of the sleeping state because we generally go through the sleep stage to reach it. However, this isn’t always the case. Daydreaming is the case where you go straight from waking to the dream state.
The above is an important finding. It tells us that consciousness is not hierarchical in its structure, at least not with the default states. Instead, they are linked and possibly related, like the verticle silos on the bar graph. When we are waking, our perception and awareness are fully engaged in this partition. Yet, under the right conditions, we still have access to both the sleep and dream states. It’s simply that our awareness is not using either of these partitions.
You are familiar with the first three; these are the default partitions that enable us to use this marvelous machinery of mind, body, and spirit. Many people never move beyond this default platform. But, as you will soon discover, there is much more to the experience available. Nietzsche describes life as a series of questions and experiments. Consciousness is the apparatus through which we make this adventure.
We concentrate most of our efforts on the normal waking state of awareness. It becomes the benchmark for ordinary reality, even though we know we experience everything within the mind.
We tend to think everyone “sees” the world exactly like we do. However, we know this isn’t the case, even in practical matters. Seven people can witness the same thing, but each one gives a slightly different account, sometimes drastically different. EEG brain waves of 8 Hz and higher are typical for an adult who is awake.
We start our discussion of the ten levels of consciousness with the waking partition, but is it the first level of awareness just because we focus most of our time in this state? We’ll come back to this question in a moment.
We spend almost half of our lives in the partition, yet most of us have no recollection of it. When we sleep, our cognition of reality shuts off.
When we sleep, we go through multiple NREM cycles (no rapid eye movement), when we are dreaming, and REM (rapid eye movement). In normal adults, each cycle lasts for about 90 to 120 minutes. There are 4 to 5 cycles that occur during a typical 8-hour sleep cycle. NREM sleep is maximum in the first part of the night, while REM sleep predominates in the second half. EEG is 12 to 14Hz waves with maximum frequencies of 11 to 16 Hz for the average adult.
Our dreams are proof of non-ordinary reality, yet most people discount this fantastic conclusion. When we dream, we enter the stage of sleep known as REM for rapid eye movement. The dreamscape seems as real and concrete as our experience in the waking state. EEG is the same for sleeping state unless we experience nightmares, which escalate respiration and heart rates into the waking state’s realm.
The partition of dreaming opens some other avenues for expanding consciousness, which we will outline under the seventh state.
Perception & The Expression of Consciousness
Without a doubt, the fourth state of consciousness changes things. It’s the beginning of what many Indian masters call the higher states of consciousness.
4) Transcendent State of Pure Awareness.
It’s a partition of awareness with both profound rest while the mind is active. The other characteristic is the awareness in absent the internal dialogue. Here the brainwaves operate in the theta-wave area around 4 to 7 Hz. So, it produces lower but more coherent brainwave patterns than waking, sleeping, or dreaming.
Many people learn to reach the fourth state with the proper type of meditation. We recommend Japa or Transcendental Meditation as the most efficient technique. After using this technique for a while, many people report that they have experienced this state before; they didn’t know what it was. It is the silence that lies in between waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi describes the transcendent state like the sap in flowers. Although colorless and shapeless, it feeds the firm stem, the green leaves, and the colorful flower. It’s the expression of consciousness manifest in different ways. Maharishi calls this portion of awareness bliss consciousness. Patanjali refers to it as Samadhi.
Many people report they encounter this state after learning to meditate as they transition from waking to a sleeping state. Some also say the experience between sleeping, dreaming, and from sleeping to waking. It indicates the 4th state of consciousness supports our platform of default awareness. It is not a state of awareness above but below holding them up.
5) The Shamanic State of Consciousness
We also have access to a 5th state, which Michael Harner calls the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). We achieve this state through the Shamanic Journey. This partition of awareness has some unique properties, including directing attention in an imaginary landscape. This landscape is the home of our subconscious imagination. We need to access the subconscious when we dream.
Of the ten levels of consciousness, this represents humankind’s first technique for exploring awareness. It just happens to be one of the most significant doorways to non-ordinary reality.
6) Cosmic Consciousness
Next, we have the sixth state of consciousness, which combines the 4th state of the transcendent with the waking state. This partition of consciousness is known as cosmic consciousness and witnessing. Many Eastern teachers call it witnessing because we experience reality from two vantage points. We are aware of being in our bodies and simultaneously observing or seeing from a point above our physical body. This aspect of witnessing is also an element of the lucid dream state.
7) Lucid Dreaming
Now we come to the seventh state. Lucid dreaming combines or overlaps two or possibly three states of consciousness because you are present, and you “know” you are dreaming. This level of awareness is the same as the waking state. It is somewhat similar to the combination of dreaming while asleep. While you are dreaming, you are both asleep and in the REM partition of awareness. Additionally, you are in an imaginary landscape similar to the Shamanic State of Consciousness. Therefore, some think it should be the 7th state of consciousness.
8) God Consciousness
This partition is a perceptual leap where one comprehends the highest relative value of ordinary reality while maintaining the sixth state’s unbound awareness. The term God Consciousness as a label for this partition is a well-known oxymoron. Consciousness and God are the same things, although they appear to be opposites before gaining the proper perspective. When we achieve the correct observational perspective, we understand that we are as much a god as any anthropomorphic being or creation of religious mythology. In essence, we are the creator, “the god,” or the sap within the flower.
It combines the waking state, the fourth and sixth state, which produces the ultimate physical perspective of reality.
“There is a God part in you. The consciousness. The pure Self. Learn to listen to the voice of that Power.” ― Amit Ray, Nonviolence: The Transforming Power
9) Unity Consciousness
In this state, one lives in the realm of oneness. We can get glimpses of oneness when we reach the fourth state or apply the correct process to remove bias and prejudice barriers. These glimpses of oneness are temporary but show us what is possible. Unity is the highest state of awareness one can achieve in ordinary reality.
10) Unbound Awareness
With this state, we step into the realm of non-ordinary reality. There is no good label for this partition which is another interesting combination of different flavors of awareness. The closest examples we have for this state are Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime or the astral projection and time travel experiences of Carlos Castaneda. Some call this state the essence of sorcery or alchemy.
In this partition, we combine the landscapes of lucid dreaming and the Shamanic Journey, and the fourth and tenth states of consciousness. You don’t achieve this state unless you’ve done some serious inner work.
These ten levels of consciousness are the main ingredients for our experiment of life. But, like a rainbow, there are varying degrees of each. For example, as you learn to lucid dream, the first step is knowing when you in the dream state. But at this point, you do not yet have control over what’s going on.
When you start to meditate and reach the fourth state, you only realize you were in it when you leave. You don’t recognize it at first because it is absent of any internal dialogue, a state where time does not exist. So, it’s vital to know the difference between a state of emotional enchantment and a genuine change in awareness.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia