Stages of Development in Consciousness

aka higher states of consciousness or stages thereof

One of the most popular articles on this blog over the years has been on states of consciousness. First as an outline of the 7 states of consciousness model, then a newer version, consolidating the many updates to the prior article.

This article reframes that model a little further to better reflect how people are experiencing the process. I’ve begun making references to this model, so I thought it time for a new Key Post. I’m also working on an e-book that goes into this in much more detail.

Psychology has begun studying these Transpersonal (post-personal) stages of development. Dr. Cook-Greuter proposed Construct-Aware and Unitive stages. (pdf link) Dr. Skip Alexander observed that eastern models of development of consciousness could be integrated with western models (pdf link) from psychology at this juncture.

In other words, what is called Enlightenment or spiritual awakening is actually a normal part of human growth and development. However, in the cycles of time, those habits of life and understanding that culture higher development become lost in the struggle to survive. But in a rising cycle, as now, the opportunity for such growth is revived and increasing numbers of people become living examples.

However, what is currently understood about enlightenment has largely been divided into various religious and philosophical camps arguing over concepts.

If we can instead find a consistent framework that understands the underlying process and accounts for much of the variety of experience, we will find that the truths of the worlds traditions all have a place within these stages of development.

Keep in mind that this is an experiential process. It is not about building concepts. However much you may think you understand this or that, until it is your lived experience, it will not be known. And in fact our concepts about it must be shed to live it.

Today, there are millions of people in the world who have had very clear tastes of these stages, although they well may not realize it. And some of those have begun to actually live them. Works like this are designed to support this growing community.

Higher Stages of Development
The post-personal Stages are essentially stages of the development of clarity of consciousness. Our physiology and psychology have matured. The next front is our being. While we might say “stages of development of consciousness”, consciousness itself doesn’t develop. What is shifting is our clarity and depth and relationship to consciousness.

As may thus be apparent, the consciousness I refer to is boundless, universal consciousness, the ground of all our being. This is what we recognize ourselves to be in the first awakening. It is not the waking state consciousness that comes and goes as we sleep and dream.

It’s also important to understand these are post-personal stages. It is not the individual person who becomes enlightened. It is Consciousness, your true Self, that is experiencing these higher perspectives and greater fullness of Itself. The sense of individual takes a progressively smaller role.

It’s also worth noting that this is a subjective process we’re describing. Reality itself does not change, just our perspective of it.

While the experience of these stages varies widely for a number of reasons, there are common distinct shifts that happen as Consciousness becomes more awake to its own totality. Each stage also has levels of clarity. Thus, there is an apparent process that occurs as Consciousness unfolds to Itself. This is much like puberty. Puberty is experienced a wide range of ways but there is a common underlying process.

This reframing is courtesy of Lorne Hoff and is derived from the Yog Vasishtha. This text is the core teaching from the sage Vasishtha, given to Rama in the royal court during the epic Ramayana. Estimates put the events at least 8,000 years ago.

The post-personal Stages in summary:
1 – Cosmic Consciousness (CC) or Self Realization
1a – Refined CC or God Consciousness (GC)
2 – Unity Consciousness (UC), Oneness or non-duality
2a – Refined Unity and God Realization
3 – Brahman or Beyond Consciousness
3a – Refined Brahman
3b – Parabrahman or Wholeness

By the numbering, you’ll notice there are 3 primary Stages of Consciousness awakening to or from Itself and each has their own Refined aspect. The refined stages are not each separate but are rather a continuous process of refinement. But when the primary stage changes, the context of the refined stage changes distinctly with it. Thus, we can describe stages in that process also.

The primary stages begin with what can be described as a realization or becoming or change in sense of being whereas the refined stages are a continuum that can begin well before or after the first realization. The refined stages have climactic realizations instead.

One key detail can help understand the variation in how this unfolds for people. In the 6 bhavas model from Ayurveda, two of them are Atman and Sattva. The development of Atman (cosmic Self) takes us through the primary stages. The Development of sattva (purity or clarity) is what develops the refined stages. (via soma)

With sattva well-developed, you see people who may not be spiritually awakened but have amazing perceptions or gifts. With Atman well-developed but less sattva, you see clear awakening but little of the divine and a drier, flatter unfoldment. The ideal is of course a balanced development of both.

The 7 States of Consciousness model from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi includes only the first 3 to Unity, although he spoke of all of them.

I review the approach to the first shift here. And the Gradations here.

1 – Cosmic Consciousness (CC) or Self Realization
The cosmic Self wakes up to Itself through this apparent person. We shift from being identified with an ego “me” to being Atman, the cosmic Self. I am That. This shift is permanent though it may take a little time to be clear. We are a witness or observer to an apparently illusory world. Only the inner wakefulness is real. It’s completion is sat chit ananda, absolute bliss consciousness.

1a – Refined CC or God Consciousness
aka Celestial or Divine Con.: the refinement of perception and the awakening heart uncover very fine feelings and perceptions. The direct perception of finer values of creation and the divine unfold. The Refined stages are more a process than a state. The inner remains real and the outer world comes to be seen as a Lila or divine play. This stage climaxes in God Realization post-Unity. Refinement continues through all stages and can take hundreds of years to complete. Thus in the current age we do what we can.

2 – Unity Consciousness (UC), Oneness or non-duality:
when the intellect recognizes the outer experience of the world and the celestial plus the inner experience of silence are of the same thing, the division between them falls. The inner and outer worlds are rejoined as the same reality. Then, through a series of recognitions, all layers of experience, memory, and all space and time are united in one wholeness. It’s completion is in Brahman.

2a – Refined Unity and God Realization
The Refinement of GC continues through Unity in a series of recognitions. It’s completion is God Realization where we choose to unite with or remain close to God. The uniting is the doorway into Brahman.

Beyond Unity, there are no longer stages of consciousness. We transcend consciousness, existence, and Atman into Brahman.

3 – Brahman or Beyond Consciousness
I describe the unfoldment of Brahman here. It’s completion is in Parabrahman.

3a – Refined Brahman
The refinement of Unity continues but now not in a relationship. There is only That.
More on Refined Brahman here.

3b – Parabrahman or Wholeness
I’ve not written about this yet. [Update: Here’s an early article on Pure Divinity, the nature of ParaBrahman.] This is the wholeness of all of it. As Lorne describes it, pure holiness even in non-self nothingness. This is Parabrahman. It is before Purusha and Mother Divine (Shiva and Shakti). It is the Divine Mother, the wholeness of all. The one and only.

Hopefully, this model offers a more complete and consistent perceptive of the process of enlightenment.
Davidya

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40 Responses to Stages of Development in Consciousness

  1. Pingback: A Second God Realization - Davidya.ca

  2. Davidya says:

    It may be noted that I have much less to say here about the Brahman stages. This is because I have fewer examples to go by. I do link to related articles though and will expand upon this as there is more data.
    I recently posted…A Second God RealizationMy Profile

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  7. Adele+Green says:

    I left my life thinking I would sit atop the mountain pondering after reaching a full and happy life. Now in love with God in me, a man unbalanced me. So I ‘asked’ why a man/why a relationship when I can balance my own masculine and feminine? The answer not yet understood was ‘this man will be God on earth for you’. Blasphemy? How do you make sense of that Davidya? Where is this on your consciousness scale?

  8. Davidya says:

    Hi Adele
    Yes, there is an outmoded idea due to a prior time in history that we have to withdraw from the world to evolve. This is no longer the case.

    The trick is, there’s 2 aspects to this process. First, there is the inner work – cleaning house and discovering the deeper parts of ourselves. This is not just balancing masc/fem but all energetic aspects of our presence in the world. A mate can help mirror our stuff to make it more conscious.

    Second, there is bringing that inner clarity out into the world. This is the part some current spiritual teachings have missed. It’s not just about awakening or Self Realization but embodiment. And again, here a mate can be a partner in this process.
    I recently posted…Where is the Soul? My Profile

  9. Davidya says:

    If a mans presence unbalanced you, it may have been because he was not growing in ways that you were. Or perhaps because you were not well integrated yet so it was easily disturbed. In that sense, the influence is positive as it can help stabilize the growth. Some new age approaches tend to be rather ungrounded. But real spiritual growth makes us increasingly unfazed by life events and relationships.

    Not that we don’t feel, mind you. In fact, we can feel far more fully. But those feelings don’t bind us and they complete and are resolved, ending.
    I recently posted…Masculine and FeminineMy Profile

  10. Davidya says:

    As for ‘this man will be God on earth for you’, this is understood in the east as a devotional approach or yoga. You may be familiar with devotion to God or guru. There is also the Upaguru, one’s mate as an object of devotion and surrender. Obviously though, this requires a relationship of deep trust and connection. And it requires a heart orientation, either as a path or as a phase in the journey (around God Consciousness). This isn’t everyone’s best path but most of us need at least a little of it.

    In these books, not blasphemy. Everything is in and of God. To suggest anything is not God is to say God is not omnipresent, which is false. Love is closest to God, so it’s the easiest means however we most easily love, be it God, teacher or mate.

    The only separation we have from God is our own shadow. There is no separation in actuality. Thus, all things can be a vehicle to God if we bring the right approach.

    What I describe is not a debate about belief. In fact it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t believe in God. But it can help a little if you have an open mind. More important to me is to direct experience. I talk about this more here:
    http://davidya.ca/2013/08/23/belief-or-experience/
    I recently posted…Redemptive LoveMy Profile

  11. Davidya says:

    The Stages model I describe above begins at early enlightenment. In a larger version of this, I explore the stages known to psychology that occur prior to this, like post-conventional and Maslow’s Self Actualization.

    I skim it here:
    http://davidya.ca/2013/02/11/what-is-consciousness-part-1/

    A branch of psychology has come to call them post-personal stages – I touch on that in the article. What you talk about is not part of enlightenment but rather what can happen as we approach it.

    The point of the article is the development of a better map of enlightenment. Too many are confusing first awakening with Vedanta or saying there is a single shift and I’m “done”. It’s a new thing for recent times that so many people have been shifting and we need to update the understanding to support that better.

    The above are also not related to feeling states as some models of “consciousness” you may have seen. They are each profound changes in our sense of Self and being and our relationship with the world. They are as distinct from each other as a 2 year old is from a teen.

    I trust this addresses your questions at least to some degree. 😉
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  34. Davidya says:

    While there is a link above, I want to highlight that I gave a talk on the above artilce at the Science and Nonduality Conference last fall. I first place this in context of childhood development, show how that shift into the above and distinguish the stages in consciousness from the stages of refinement.

    http://davidya.ca/2015/11/01/our-natural-potential-talk-sand/

  35. Bojan says:

    Hello Davidya. I was wondering what type of practice were you using to realize Cosmic Consciousness? I dont have any realizations or even peak experiences yet. My path is A Course in Miracles. I think everyone has his own form of traveling to the Place we never left. I also have a question: Do you think that more and more people are engaged in transformative spirituality then in the past? Thank you for your answer. Best wishes from Slovenia!

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Bojan
      Welcome from western Canada. For myself, it was a combination. The primary practice was Transcendental Meditation. This cultured an experienced connection with source and helped purify the physiology to increase clarity. I also did a bit of more targeting healing. And finally, some time with the awake helped with the actual shift.

      Key from my perspective is a tool that brings you that direct experience. Concepts or beliefs alone won’t do the trick in the time we have available.

      And yes. In my lifetime, millions of people have shifted from dogmatic belief to direct practices like meditation. And in the last decade, dozens of people I know have woken up. Some of those have made good progress in the above stages too. This is a huge change.

  36. Bojan says:

    Hello again Davidya. I was thinking about the reintegration of the subconscious and the process of enlightenment. Some people are saying that first it is essential to completly reintegrate personal subconscious before permanent enlightenment is posible. If we repress different aspect of reality, how can we know the Reality itself. Other people are saying that with the enlightenment the process of reintegration of the subconscious is happening automaticly. Maybe both ways are posible… I also wonder if it is posible to go higher from CC if we still have some aspects of ourself repressed and rejected. I am very interested what you have to say about this. Thanks for the answer. I also have to say that your blog is very informative in many ways. Not many people are writing about higher stages of developement so clear as you do. I know only that Sri Aurobindo was writing alot about higher developement. But for me his writing is dificult to understand. And of course i have to travel this path myself. Only then clear and direct comprehension is posible… Best wishes from Slovenia!

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Bojan
      I’d say it’s typically a mixture of both. There has to be enough clarity for the shift to happen, so some falling away of resistance and healing is needed prior.

      The shift itself often comes with a lot of clearing. What form that takes varies but awakening is said to roast the latent seeds of karma.

      After the shift, there is a further wave of clearing of the stuff broken up by the shift and the presence of being in that place. This depends on our backlog and how much we cleared in the first part.

      Then, over time living the shift it deepens and is further integrated. This brings to light further layers of things to be seen.

      • Davidya says:

        There is also the parallel process of refinement which also requires clearing and itself will require a new level of clarity.

        The trick is, awakening is lived through our humanity. Amazing hunks of resistance and shadow will fall away through this process. But there can still be aspects which require living and experiences to bring to light. Old self-concepts that no longer serve. Things we didn’t know or didn’t like that where repressed and so on.

        In other words, the process not only changes who we see ourselves as being, it can shift our understanding of very mundane things too.

  37. Davidya says:

    I’ve recently been writing more about ParaBrahman of late, such as this article.
    http://davidya.ca/2016/06/05/pure-divinity/

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