HJ: If you are curious to know where you are in the development of consciousness, this article will help you figure it out. One of the first things we tend to do on the path to higher consciousness is assume we are much further along than we actually are. This has two primary causes: 1) the ego is not yet under control and it kicks into its usual patterns and assumes the role of protecting ‘the delicate self’, which manifests as an air of accomplishment and superiority and 2) because in relation to the rather base (low) level of human awareness of the self (in a general sense) on the planet at this time, even minor advancements in consciousness/spiritual awareness do indeed seem like big jumps, when in fact they are only the first steps down and endless path.
And so it is that we mistakenly assume we are well on our way to enlightenment because we meditate/eat and live healthy/think positive/are quasi-religious/believe in the law of attraction/are into new-age things/(insert spiritual quality here). These are all signs of awakening awareness of the self, but the real work lies in opening ourselves up to the higher planes of conscious awareness and letting go of many of the trappings of the lower planes — primarily those related to the ego. This is much more difficult (for most, but not all) than simply making positive lifestyle changes, although any of the lifestyle changes may be the first step in getting you to this point.
What I am saying is, in essence, always be humble and willing to learn and grow. These qualities are essential on the spiritual path and will help you to ultimately reach the higher planes of awareness spoken of in the article below. Assuming you are further along than you may really be will only keep you from doing the work that needs to be done, or accomplishing it much more slowly. Being honest with yourself, but also acknowledging how far you have actually come are both equally important. One keeps you humble and one keeps you moving forward — a healthy balance.
The Six Planes of Higher Consciousness
By Graham V. Ledgerwood | The Mystic
On the day you thoughtfully turn the direction of your life toward higher consciousness and yearn to discover the consciousness that created and sustains you, you will begin the greatest adventure of your life. On that day the motive and the quest of your life are both changed. You no longer live for yourself but for something greater than you. You no longer are driven by the motive for personal gratification but for lasting fulfillment and personal transformation.
Your adventure in higher consciousness will test you, as well as thrill and satisfy you. Many times you may feel fearful as you stand before unknown dimensions of higher consciousness. Your mind, trying to guess what is about to happen, will never be adequate. Its presumptions are too limited and too predicated on previous experience in the outer world. Your emotions will be stretched beyond the normal comfort level, stretched until they can maintain universal love and revel in the ecstasy of pure being.
Your adventure requires your courage — more courage than you think you’ve got. You will also have to endure, to hang on and persevere, longer than you think you can.
You will need faith. At times it may seem faith is the only thing remaining to you. You will be tempted to let go of your faith and slide back to the turning point where you can forget about higher consciousness and your quest.
There is a need to be kind, especially to yourself. Your harsh judgments about yourself and the path can cause too many doubts and certain failure.
You will also need to be humble. There are times you may feel you don’t have enough strength and wisdom to continue, times you desperately need inspiration, guidance, and strength from above.You need to be energetic and strong. The weak do not persevere and they give up pitifully early.
Your journey through the stages of the heart, as it grows from the dark state to the clean, has been described inStages of Mental/Emotional Awakening. It’s very important to keep these stages of mental/emotional awakening in mind as reliable guideposts of your voyage. However, it’s also very important to know the following levels of awareness which you will likely experience as you come home to your higher consciousness and become enabled to live in it as a new person.
As soon as you turn within and begin your adventure you experience an all-important realization which hopefully you never forget:
1 — Transcendence
Having made the significant redirection of your life, of your purpose and goals, you experience, in the quiet of the night, or looking out at the world through calm eyes, that the material world is essentially spirit. The material world is essentially conscious energy. While the world seems very dense and solid, this solidity is only a beautiful power of spirit and higher consciousness to make itself dense, “to crystallize” itself and occupy time and space. You, by one means or another, receive the conviction or revelation that the external world is made up of an essence or an energy which you can perceive or feel. This essence is also the primary substance, or the essential reality, of everyone and everything that exists. You realize that your nature, your personal nature, is essentially conscious energy or spirit. This you behold with your own superconscious sight; and the world, you find, has never seemed so beautiful as it now appears. You see both the hard, physical forms and the subtle plays of essence and energy within and around all living things and every object, big or small.
Realizing for once, and hopefully forever, that the physical world is truly what physicists say — energy — you have a new attitude about the entire universe. You realize how fluid and how changeable your world can be with the right application of consciousness. You see that your thoughts and feelings are plays of energy and that they do have an impact, an interplay, with the vast universe. Your thoughts and feelings, as well as your actions, are interrelated with the way the world is now and the way it is becoming in the future.
Many people, you realize, take hallucinogenic drugs in the hope of catching a glimpse of this energy and consciousness which you now — with the feeling of being at home — behold so calmly and naturally.
In this perception of the essence and energy within all living things and within all objects, you perceive more deeply how faith works. Faith brings about a change in circumstances. It causes change because all things and all people are rooted in, have their essence in, this same energy ocean. Here, in the unity of spirit, each person directs his convictions and activates his faith about a life and world that can be. A prayer or act of faith becomes a powerful movement in one part of the ocean of consciousness which then (or simultaneously) acts upon the consciousness and energy in another place, person, or situation.
You also see how important it is for your health to relax in the consciousness of the higher subtle energy so this dynamic force may most easily heal and rejuvenate the body which, after all, is truly a product of consciousness and energy.
Many who have this first experience of higher consciousness consider themselves enlightened and cannot conceive of higher levels of awareness beyond this staggering view of reality: that everything is consciousness and life is essentially conscious energy.
2 — Serene Knowledge
When you feel at home with the shocking and breathtaking realization of the universe as a play of energy or consciousness which you are able to behold through your heightened senses and subtle mind, you enter into a state of indescribably sweet serenity. Your serenity is so deep that it seems to pervade not only your bones and body but the air around you. The energy in your room, or car, or wherever you may go, has a beatific quality. Others may love to stand near you and many dogs and cats may wish to abide with you in the new atmosphere which radiates from your new level of consciousness.
In this state of serenity you are able to feel free from old habits, free to choose new and better ways to express yourself or spend your time. Your serenity enables greater freedom of choice and greater ability to be constructive than you have known before.
While perhaps the first level of higher consciousness is the most shocking — to behold the entire world, yourself, and life in an entirely new light is certainly mind-boggling — it is also quite surprising to find that the body and mind feel quite uncomfortable with serenity at first. While the serenity is so sweet and pleasant, there is a tendency from old thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the world to avoid what is so wonderful. There is resistance at first which tries to prevent the serenity from occurring. And, if the serenity nevertheless occurs, there is then a reluctance about staying in it or in allowing it to go on.
Further, there is a treacherous residual malice which strives to deprecate, deny, or criticize the serenity, to limit it or make it go away. There is the haunting feeling that to be serene is not “patriotic” or human; or some such rationale floods the mind in its desperation to tyrannize your organism once again with its conjectures, doubts, apprehensions, and wild free play of fears from those days before the dawn of higher consciousness.
It takes practice to accept the insights which you have gained about the world as consciousness and thus reestablish yourself in a serenity which enables you to thoroughly align your thoughts and feelings with your new state of well being. You may find it hard to accept serenity as a natural state because hardly anyone you have ever met has been serene. Often the temptation will be to think of yourself as lazy when you wish to attune with your inner self and enjoy the gleaming inner light.
However, with just a little observation, you will notice that in your new serenity you are more active and efficient than you have ever been before. You also relate to others more easily, and you can perceive and achieve goals more successfully.
In this serene level of higher consciousness you make choices and decisions about forming your new character, letting go of destructive flaws, and accepting and creating tendencies of character which are supportive of your new perceptions of yourself and the universe.
3 — Universal Abundance
Your realization of higher consciousness now inspires you with courage. You begin to know that all the strength you need to succeed in your quest will be instilled within you. This gift of courage from your higher consciousness is fully accepted and you feel very strong and powerful but are perfectly aware you do not own this courage, that it is bestowed on you as a gift through your loving surrender and attunement. In this state of courage you sense that whatever you truly need you will always have — or know how to attract it or achieve it.
In this state of courage you are finally able to let go of deep insecurities that plague most everyone: greed and covetousness. In your new security you find you do not have to be greedy, and the tension and misery you used to feel is released as you throw greed away. It is no longer a necessary part of your makeup. You also find you do not need to desire anything anyone else in the world has. You sense in your courage that whatever you truly need will be yours, without question. Your ally, higher consciousness, will enable true fulfillment. Further, you don’t feel so much of a need for material things. They can be great tools but they are no longer important to you as symbols of accomplishment or self-esteem.
It is at this point in your adventure that your courage will be tested many times. Having the conviction of true courage, as well as freedom from greed and covetousness, your life will very likely put you to the test. This testing is a subtle agreement between your higher consciousness and your world somehow. You will be given many opportunities to find out if there is any residual greed hiding within you. Again and again you will be made to feel lacking — without some object or situation that would be very helpful to you. At that point you will find out whether you feel greed or perhaps even wish to have the monies and objects someone else has. You will be tested many times, and may fail several times before you go on to the next level of the adventure. What has to be established within you is a courage that prevails against any challenge. Certainly it’s alright to have fear, but true courage is involved in facing that fear and succeeding in spite of it, not allowing it to diminish your courage in any way.
The quest will determine whether you want to use your old-fashioned, cunning ways, developed before the dawn of higher consciousness, or whether you mean it when you say you wish to live a life in higher consciousness and that it truly is capable of sustaining you.
So many people talk a good game and cite many miraculous events of the higher consciousness helping them out. However, all too many aspirants have given up and broken faith with their higher consciousness, their true nature, when their life situation was critical, when the results were very, very important, and when no help or inspiration seemed forthcoming. These “edge-of-the-precipice” experiences, as some people call them, are the true builders of character and the real transformers of devotees.
It is at this third level that many initiates in higher consciousness pause for a very long time and gratefully recede into fleeting moments of serenity rather than face the unknown and go forward.
It would not be correct, of course, to maintain that one simply relies on the higher consciousness to do everything. The adventurer seeks to attune mind, body, hands, feet, words, everything, with the higher consciousness and seeks greater common sense, among other things, to know how best to serve the higher consciousness in the practical, day-to-day matters of life. The person who is passing this test of true courage is not sitting somewhere in a dark room waiting for somebody to throw a loaf of bread or a gold brick through the window. He or she is actively moving about in life but living that life from a sense of deep inner satisfaction and a willingness to cooperate with the great inner wisdom and goodness.
When true courage is accepted and it becomes part of your nature, and when greed and covetousness have truly fallen from you — no longer being your tendencies, however deeply hidden — then another level of higher consciousness makes its appearance.
4 — Your Vast Self
In this level your sense of self expands. Having grown in higher consciousness, you are now bestowed the ability to let go of your egocentric drive. Releasing the tremendous self-preoccupation that most people have, your sense of self lightly and easily expands outward from you, moving out beyond the confines of the body, extending and extending not only to the horizon but beyond the horizon. There is a rush of awareness that you are conscious energy yourself, pure awareness, and that you are not confined to a body. You can extend your being, your essence, not only as a general glow or radiance but this marvelous light of your being, this marvelous power of your being, can extend to infinity — and it does.
This infinite, vast experience is filled with ecstasy and delight. It is called cosmic consciousness by many people. You realize your cosmic, or universal, self. You realize what mystics through the ages have experienced through their profound meditations. You are alive as never before.
Usually these expansions last about half an hour and then you return to physical awareness and feel that once again you are abiding within your body. The nerves have to be strengthened in order for this experience to occur in the first place and if you are to have expansions that last more than twenty minutes to a half hour, then your nerves will have to be very strong because the rush of energy is very powerful. **
As a result of this expansion you feel deep empathy and attunement with all people. No one is a stranger to you. Everyone you meet somehow feels like a relative, a person from your family, from your circle of friends and acquaintances.
This cosmic consciousness, or expansion, is not without its tests and difficulties. Very often you will find you are about to have the experience but you choke. That is, you clutch, you hold back, you do not dare let go of your self-interest or your attachment to your body. It is often difficult to expand even a little bit, let alone allow the process to extend to seeming infinity — which is indeed what can happen.
So, many aspirants balk at this point. They are afraid to let go of their body and to experience a change in their perception of who they really are. It’s scary, and it is not known to the beginner what is going to happen. There is a fear of losing oneself, or of dying, of being very unsafe. What should happen if one is out there and the phone rings or somebody comes into the room? Perhaps one won’t be able to get back in the body. All these fears have to be dealt with by a patient acceptance of the higher consciousness and a willingness to work with it and to understand it — to the extent one is ever able to understand something so great.
Sometimes it takes a person over a year to be willing to trust this expansive pressure that lovingly builds up, usually in the chest area. Some people who begin the experience and then, through fear, stop it, give up the spiritual path and live in quiet terror that the expansion might happen to them sometime. They find the feeling utterly horrible, their sense of self being altered so. Often one needs the help and inspiration of a Master/Guru or adept who routinely experiences this state. Such guidance encourages the aspirant to be patient and to be pleased when the expansion tries to happen.
The difficulty is based entirely on the strength of the ego and its predilection for self-centeredness. The higher consciousness will not overwhelm the ego. It awaits the time that the ego is willing to experience something beyond itself, willing to welcome a new state of love and freedom to occur, and willing to surrender control to the higher power, the greater wisdom, and the true love within.
Many seekers do not understand and do not have what it takes. They try the expansion a few times, find themselves unwilling or unable to cooperate with the outward thrust of the self. They return to the fork in the road where higher consciousness began and they willingly take the other road: the road of self-confinement.
On the other hand, those who persist and understand that the problem is the thickness of their ego — the intensity of their ego-centricity — find the experience so wonderful they yearn that it not end. And each day that goes by thereafter they yearn to experience the expansion again and again and again. They feel, both in the expansion and in the afterglow of it, that they are surrounded by blessedness. They behold everything as tinged with a sweet ecstasy. The serenity of the second level has been totally replaced by an ecstatic and dynamic play of consciousness. It is thrilling to be alive in every tissue! Every moment, every second, has a delight in it for the one who meets with this adventure and dares to be changed in so fundamental a way.
5 — Integration
Having experienced the exaltation and also the transformation of one’s sense of self in level four, a very pleasant and necessary state now occurs. The aspirant, in his growth in higher consciousness, getscomfortable with the new state of expansion and is able to sense the freed and expanded ego — the transformed ego — quite easily throughout the day. A quality of calmness and an ability to perform well in daily life now occurs.
It is obviously a necessity that one not be so preoccupied with one’s ecstasy that one sticks one’s hand in front of a saw or drives crazily down the road into other cars. While such empty-headed incompetence is very unlikely, it is nevertheless a possibility. So, the ecstatic states of the previous level are generally experienced in the quiet of one’s apartment or meditation area. In this following stage, that magnificent exaltation becomes so consolidated within you that you become calm enough to live in a degree of this higher awareness night and day. You gain the ability to maintain a higher level of consciousness while in the outer world. You also feel great ease in entering meditation and going into a more intimate experience with higher consciousness as well.
So, in this state you become deeply calm — very, very calm. You are also able to maintain this calmness while you are extremely busy. The keynote of this advanced stage in higher consciousness is “calmly active, actively calm.” Whether in motion or at rest, you have a calmness that enables the ecstasy and blessedness of higher consciousness to abide with you in your job, home life, and any other activity.
6 — Creative Mind
You are now tempted and rather severely tested. The question is: Whose will is to be done in your life?
You realize that you could probably direct your energy to heal people, to create millions of dollars for yourself, or to benefit yourself in some other particularly handsome way. You could become quite famous. You very likely could be considered a saint — and a great one. Probably you could develop occult powers and read minds or project your astral body to distant places. You could predict the future very likely. In fact, at times you seem not to be able to keep yourself from knowing what’s on another person’s mind or from being very “lucky” in your career world.
It’s a difficult time, in fact. You don’t know to what extent you should use your higher consciousness to benefit yourself or others. After all, there are so many needy people in the world! You may feel like a pitiless monster — or an arrogant scrooge — if you don’t use all of your higher consciousness to help those who are suffering or who are less fortunate than you are.
These trials often send people back out on the road away from higher consciousness. It’s amazing, but even having experienced so much of the higher consciousness many aspirants, at this point, get the opinion they are now empowered to play God and it is their calling to run about the planet using their higher powers to zap and influence people and situations. “After all,” they ask, “did we get this higher power, this higher consciousness, only to do nothing with it?”
This series of trials may go on for ten, twenty years, or a lifetime. It’s a state easy to talk about, but hard to deal with when one is in the testing and tempting phase. Many fail. Many decide that they are authorized and empowered to run about playing God.
However, those who appreciate the higher consciousness do not have much of a problem. They simply seek the wisdom and guidance of their higher consciousness about what they should do next. They know it is only by the power of the higher consciousness they progressed from one level to the next. They recall it’s only due to an inspired sense of need for the higher consciousness that they ever began the path. It’s only the grace of the higher consciousness and the Lord within that has enabled them in any way to stay on the path. For such devotees it’s quite simple. They submit themselves to the higher consciousness and seek its will. They don’t want to do their own individual will. They’ve observed that many times in their lives when they’ve tried to use their limited thought, insight, and power they often hurt themselves or others. Such aspirants seek, through their gratitude and appreciation of the higher consciousness, to attune their personal will with the higher will — with the wisdom of the higher consciousness which they have learned to love and trust.
And so they go past the many hurdles and precipices that other seekers find difficult to deal with. These seekers of the higher will are blessed to be trained, through life, to attune more and more readily with the higher will. They learn how to recognize it, how to distinguish between the higher will and their old-fashioned, less adept will. They find the higher will is easily revealed and expressed through them. This alignment of one’s being with the higher consciousness brings immense satisfaction and a sense of being a sharer in the ongoing creativity of this universe.
These wise aspirants seek to humbly, through their prayer and meditative life, further the act of creation, further the expression of goodness, in their daily lives. They feel no conflict between their personal will and the higher will because they have completely submitted their personal will to the higher will. They seek to live in attunement. As some saints say, “I am the instrument. You, 0 Lord, are the operator of this instrument.”
These are but the mere beginning levels of enlightenment. After these basic tests and triumphs there are ever-new and ever-more delightful experiences in store. There is no limit to the adventure and the reward of intimacy with your higher consciousness and your Creator.
Graham Ledgerwood has avidly studied Western and Eastern Mysticism since 1963 and began practicing meditation as a youth in 1958. He has studied and practiced many forms of Mysticism — Sufism, Jewish Mysticism and Christian Mysticism, Zen, Egyptian Mysticism, The Tao, Theosophy, the Eight Main Yogas, and many others. He became an illuminatus in 1966, a recognized Master in 1971, and received honors and initiation into the status of avadhut (one who lives in Spirit) in 1976. He has been teaching Mysticism, Yoga, and Metaphysics since 1970 and has personally taught more than fifteen thousand people. Graham has written KEYS TO HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS, an inspiring book about spiritual awakening. In July 1995 he concluded his full-time teaching to focus on writing and meditation.