My early understandings of higher states of consciousness and enlightenment came from various sources but the one clearest to me was the one in Campbell’s 7 States of Consciousness.
In that model, the experience of transcendental consciousness in meditation is gradually infused into the daily experience of life. When it is strong enough, we begin to “witness” or experience ourself as the observer, separate from the body, mind and emotions. The body continues to act without our apparent input. Some people also have such experiences spontaneously.
As the experience deepens further, such episodes occur even in dreams – like a fuller version of lucid dreaming – and deep sleep.
The common understanding then was that full-time witnessing meant you were awake, in Cosmic Consciousness. You were Self-Realized.
However, it has since become clear that this is a misunderstanding. Many people witness for years before awakening. It is an excellent indication the Self has become lively within. One is Self aware. But as long as the ego holds sway, Self has not awoken fully to Itself within. One has not become Self. The switch has not happened.
Another misunderstanding is around awakeness in deep sleep. People I’ve discussed this with often experience an awakeness in deep sleep that fades off into a simple sense of continuity. The inner sense of awakeness or Self is unbroken, whatever the state of consciousness. But we are no longer experiencing the dead-asleep body during deep sleep. I assumed this change just meant some fatigue had crept in as this awakeness for me faded after I left a long meditation course.
Recently, I heard a different explanation that makes more sense. The sense of experience during deep sleep indicates some value of mind is still awake. Due to the awakeness of awareness, some value of mind is able to be held into even deep sleep.
Eventually, we relax this and allow the mind to fully sleep as normal. This is similar to dream state. When that new value of alertness dawns, we may find ourselves getting involved in dreams, changing them and so forth. When we just relax into the dreams, we let them continue as normal.
As consciousness continues to evolve, the sense of separate witness gradually dissolves into a deeper wholeness, a unity with all. We wake up to the oneness we are.