Each major change in state of consciousness tends to have a lead up, an actual shift, then a process of integration. Disintegration, growth, integration, and balance. The same process happens with all of the smaller shifts as well, although perhaps in a less marked way.
With Cosmic Consciousness or Self Realization, there is the growth of an independent observer, the observer switch from personal to Self, and then the deepening into sat chit ananda. We could of course break it down into many more levels. And many varieties of experience.
God Realization is a track that revolves around the refinement and clarity of the physiology and the opening of the heart. It tends to start before Self Realization and continues indefinitely. But the actual realization begins after Self Realization and the opening of the heart that can then occur.
Unity or Oneness is when the Self within absorbs the world without and all becomes One. Broadly there is a bridging of inner and outer with the flow of love, the identity that divides is released, and outside becomes inside. We switch into one. This is a switch of discernment or the intellect. The deep intellect seeing I am That, Thou art That, all This is That. Over time, increasing values of experience are absorbed into the one. The sense of person becomes increasingly cosmic.
Because the west has a stronger orientation of mind, there is a tendency for many to make the unity switch first, picking up God Realization after that. There is greater comfort and openness to intellectual discovery than to heart surrender more common in the east. While some heart opening and perceptual deepening seems needed to make the unity connection, the realization does not need to be complete.
Thus it becomes more common to first see Unity, then Unity in God Consciousness. In fact, it would seem there is a limit to the upward progression of Unity until God Realization has occurred. One can only be so cosmic without facing what is cosmic.
If a person is on this more western approach, they are more likely to process the unfolding depths of perception intellectually. As the perceptions can seem to match the descriptions, it can seem like an unfolding realization rather than a distinct shift. The revealing flaw is the intellectual approach. God Realization has nothing to do with the intellect. It is only through love.
This is not unlike the approach to Self realization, what many call awakening. We can be experiencing the peace and silence within. We can know that I am That. But until we have actually become, it is not the realization, there has been no switch. We are still seeing from the perspective of waking state, however refined.
When we bring the approach of one state of consciousness to another, that is where there is a disconnect. We can gain deep understanding in the experience of God from an intellectual perspective, supporting ideas like Shankara’s 6 forms of God. God as fundamental principles.
But there is a profound limit to this approach. A limit that gets in the way of seeing what’s really going on. The more inclusive perspective of being. It is so much greater and more profound than any idea of God. It is Being Itself. In fact, it is the love that is beyond being, the love out of which existence arises. The love from which the intellect and knowledge arise.
It is Mother Nature, Prakriti, Mother Divine, the Creator. Without That, nothing is. We have not reached full understanding of the ways of becoming nor the foundations of reality. We are still in the effects.
PS – the western mind cannot comprehend God Realization as it not only beyond mind but beyond Being Itself. But it can be known directly.