Consciousness is like a rainbow, a kaleidoscope of colors that blend from one to the next. Yet, many people live their entire lives in just three primary colors. There’s much more to experience in life. See how to do it.
A Rainbow of Beautiful Colors
We are essentially memory floating on a continuum of awareness. Without consciousness, we cease to exist; without memories, we have no experience, no value. If we are to understand life’s lessons, we must understand consciousness.
Defining these terms is an excellent first step. However, this is more difficult than you would think. That’s because, like a rainbow, our consciousness is a kaleidoscope of colors. The colors of our perception overlap and sometimes run together. Yet, most people live their whole lives using just the three primary colors or states. These are waking, sleeping, and dreaming. So, they miss a vast range of other possibilities.
Our Consciousness Is Like a Rainbow
We experience a range of awareness, but we overlook the subtle shifts. If we have a good night’s sleep, we make better decisions. We shift between different states of consciousness. We transition between waking, sleeping, and dreaming states every day. These are just the default settings of consciousness.
Waking, sleeping, and dreaming are the beginning. There are many variations of altered awareness and several higher states of consciousness. But many people live their lives in the default modes. Our goal is to help you see the possibilities within our rainbow of consciousness. We hope it stimulates your curiosity to learn more about the other rainbow of beautiful colors.
“Consciousness is like a rainbow; it has a multitude of colors, one blending into the next.” ― Guru Tua
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 a is generally accepted view of the senses. It is where time and space “appear” to exist as constants.
- Non-ordinary reality is what we experience outside of what people call everyday experience. It includes our thoughts, daydreaming, and dreams while we sleep. All of this takes place outside of the realm of time and space. Think about it. For now, we won’t open Pandora’s Box concerning whether time and space are “real” or an illusion of the mind.
Three Basic Partitions of Consciousness
Next, we have three primary partitions of consciousness, waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The waking state of consciousness is the primary platform of perception. The default setting is ‘ordinary reality.’
Then we have sleeping and dreaming states, which are everyday experiences. The dream state is fascinating because it provides proof of non-ordinary reality. When we sleep and dream, we are generally unaware of time or space. When we dream, we enter an imaginary landscape, a 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 waking state of awareness is the primary platform for human experience within ordinary reality. EEG brain waves of 8 Hz and higher are typical if someone is awake and aware. When we are asleep, the normal range is in the delta range of around 1 to 3 cycles per second. EEG is 12 to 14Hz waves with a maximum of 11 to 16 Hz for the average adult while sleeping.
The lines of demarcation between these primary states are often indistinguishable. We are rarely aware of the shift from one state to the next. We will come back to this important point later. Let’s talk about sleeping and dreaming for a moment.
Explaining How to Fall Asleep
If you met someone who has never fallen asleep or dreamed, how would you explain the experience? How would you explain how to fall asleep?
First, you tell them it’s easy and good for you—trust me. It’s not hard to sleep. When you are tired, you lay down, so you are comfortable. Then close your eyes, and in a few minutes, you are asleep.
While you sleep, your mind and body repair things, but you aren’t aware of it. Hours pass, and you aren’t aware of time or your surroundings. You don’t actually know you are asleep. After several hours pass, you wake up refreshed.
That’s pretty much it, except for these things we call dreams. Dreams are an imaginary world of the subconscious. While dreaming, you don’t realize it, and it seems like reality. However, crazy things can happen. Sometimes your dreams are pleasurable, and sometimes they turn into things we call nightmares. Nightmares are bad dreams that contain the most frightening things your subconscious can muster.
So, the man who has never slept listens to your explanation and tells you, no, they don’t want to try to sleep. It sounds like you aren’t in control, you lose track of time, which is wasteful, and to top things off, you can have horrible hallucinations. I don’t want to try it.
If you’ve followed the discussion, you’ll notice these are the same reasons people use to avoid using techniques that open the doors of consciousness. People don’t have any frame of reference to understand anything beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. So, they miss the rainbow of beautiful colors that await them in the other doors of consciousness.
“Our intellect, our awareness, and our consciousness is the most powerful form of life on this planet.” — James McAvoy
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. These compounds change 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 one of the primary goals of self-development. These are partitions of awareness different from waking, dreaming, or sleeping. They are states of consciousness with unique physiological and perceptive characteristics. This is where the mind opens a vast rainbow of beautiful colors.
When you alter consciousness, this distorts the waking state of awareness. Distortion of perception occurs when we subject it to some stimuli. For example, when injecting or ingesting psychoactive elements. Altered states caused by psychoactive ingredients are limited in duration. Alcohol is an example of a socially acceptable substance for altering consciousness.
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 can also create altered states of consciousness. These spiritual technologies may also provide gateways into higher states of consciousness.
Several things can produce an altered state of perception. A traumatic event can cause an alteration that seems to “slow time.” Near-death experiences are an altered psychedelic state. Medical conditions like epilepsy can induce altered states. Depriving the body of water, oxygen, or sleep can cause an altered hallucinogenic state. Some of these effects are predictable, but some are not.
As was mentioned earlier, expanding awareness usually involves a personal eureka experience. Remembering more of our dreams is the easiest way of increasing 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 is the Enneagram of Personality. This process uses a test to identify your personality’s nine essential components. 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. Logic and common sense are helpful tools in spiritual exploration. They help us sort out the facts from the fiction. Many ancient cultures taught common sense along with other more esoteric methods.
Higher States of Consciousness
Higher states of consciousness are sometimes more difficult. They often deal with perceptual elements well outside the range of ordinary reality. Here, it’s like different worldviews of an insect and man. Both occupy the same world but with vastly different perceptions of reality.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the partitions of higher awareness. People see these as the Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness in the modern world. But, this depends upon who defines ordinary.
The Non-Ordinary Range of Awareness
Most people start life with the three default states of consciousness. These are the partitions of waking, sleeping, and dreaming. Our ancestors were curious about the boundaries of consciousness. They developed techniques for exploring other realms of awareness. We call them non-ordinary states only because Western thought does not deem them acceptable.
We find there are two higher states of consciousness practiced around the world. These are Pure or Transcendental Consciousness and the Shamanic State of Consciousness.
The 4th state of consciousness is known by several names, such as pure or bliss and transcendental consciousness, to name a few. It’s a partition of consciousness that has unique metabolic characteristics. The most notable is a change in the increased coherence of brainwave patterns. Brainwaves are in the 4 to 7 Hz theta-wave area.
This partition of awareness has a profound effect on the mind and body. The body reaches a state of deep rest while the mind remains alert but absent the typical internal dialogue. Scholars like Joseph Campbell to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi recommend everyone learn how to reach this state of bliss consciousness. We recommend an Indian method known as Japa Meditation. The more commercially available version of this process is Transcendental Meditation (TM) (2).
Earlier, we talked about how most people do not notice the shift between different states. Some people have this ability. We call them gifted. But, you can learn to do this too. All you need to do is practice the methods of meditation noted above. It will show you how consciousness is like a rainbow. After practicing meditation, you will notice these shifts. Once you experience it for yourself, you will understand how pure consciousness underlies all states of awareness. This realization is one way you know that you are expanding awareness.
Shamanic State of Consciousness
The shamanic journey’s imaginary landscape is the fifth state of awareness—Mankind’s first codified process for reaching a non-ordinary state of consciousness. Michael Harner, (1) anthropologist and modern shaman, calls it the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC).
It is similar to pure or transcendental awareness in that the brainwaves are also in the theta-wave bandwidth. However, instead of basking in silence, you use your imagination to engage in a “visionary quest.” It also has similarities to the lucid dreaming state in that you are aware of being in this partition while you direct the journey in a vivid imaginary landscape.
The Shamanic Journey has similarities across many cultures. It is an integral part of the cultural narrative. For example, the aboriginal tribes of Australia have a unique form of this technique known as Dreamtime. It is the centerpiece of their tribal culture, which includes a relatively accurate cosmology of the Universe. It is evident to many researchers that processes like this process are the most likely sources of modern religion.
Today, this process has undergone rebranding and renaming in the West. It makes the process acceptable to Western customers. It is even taught in Churches as guided meditation, creative visualization, and mindscape.
Combining the States of Consciousness
Now we have what you could call our five primary states of consciousness. These include the three primary states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming. To these, we’ve added two other higher states, the transcendental consciousness and the Shamanic State of Consciousness. These are like the different colors of our rainbow. What’s more important is that there are many different shades between these five. Each color of the rainbow fades into and overlaps another. Combining these states is also one of the goals of awareness.
The Sixth State of Consciousness
The sixth state of consciousness demonstrates how consciousness is like a rainbow. Here we see where two colors intersect and create a new partition of awareness. When we combine the waking state with the transcendent state, we get “cosmic consciousness.”
The sixth state is an example of combining two forms of consciousness—one from ordinary and non-ordinary reality. To enter the sixth state, we bring the transcendent into waking awareness, and it’s a significant development. It shows us how flexible consciousness can be. It is like the advent of color TV from black and white.
One achieves this state through regular Japa or TM meditation. The mind naturally moves toward a state of silence. So, it is natural to bring this quality into the waking state of ordinary reality. The resulting experience is what we refer to as “witnessing.” Here the mind can perceive two vantage points simultaneously. This separation isn’t a philosophical position. It is the experience of being separate from the body while also 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 which provides evidence that “we” are one with this reality. We are both the Observer and the participant. It is the 6th state that gives us a glimpse of the concept of Oneness.
Lucid Dreaming the Seventh State
Some believe that lucid dreaming should be the seventh state because it combines two or even three consciousness states. In lucid dreaming, one is present; they “know” they are dreaming. This level of perception is the same as the waking state. REM is a unique partition of the sleeping state. It is similar to the SSC, where you move within an imaginary landscape. In lucid dreaming, you also create and direct the experience. What do you think?
There you have the essential 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.
There are several ancient tools for expanding and exploring consciousness. We call them spiritual technologies.
The methods above are part of the ancient methods for exploring consciousness. We call them spiritual technologies because they help us investigate the intrinsic aspect of our nature. They are a collection of processes to develop the potential of the mind, body, and spirit. They offer us ways to expand awareness and reach higher states of consciousness.
You could organize these methods in any number of ways. We divide these tools into four major categories:
Our consciousness is like a rainbow of beautiful colors. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the delicious places in your mind. Listen to the still, small voice inside you that longs to explore the unknown reaches of your inner world.
(1) Michael Harner, Wikipedia
(2) Transcendental Meditation Technique (TM) /www.tm.org