There’s a point I’ve touched on here before but it’s worth mentioning again. There are a number of nuances in the Gradations of Awakening that can vary from person to person. One of them is in the forms or stages of witnessing, the local and cosmic. This came up in a forum and I thought it worth sharing here. This is rarely described elsewhere.
You bring up a fine point that is often not covered. The witness actually has 2 levels to it. Some just shift on through and don’t recognize this, perhaps until late in Unity where the global structure of consciousness becomes recognized.
But if the process takes place a little more slowly, an initial local witness can arise prior to Self Realization. The way Kundalini Vidya describes it, the kundalini Shakti may rise to just below the 3rd eye. It reaches the witness point and witnessing arises. However, because it’s not yet stable, it drops again after a time and the witness fades.
However, because the memory of it is still clear, this may be confused with the direct “experience”. The ego may even co-opt the memory to play at being Self. One of the little dances that may happen close to awakening.
Once Shakti pierces the final cap and reaches the third eye, it can also reach Makara just above it. Then the Shakti becomes stable and no longer drops. The local witness then becomes permanent and there is an ongoing continuity of awareness. (though clarity may rise and fall some)
But it’s not until Shakti rises to join Shiva in the crown that we shift into global or boundless awareness and have The awakening to our cosmic nature, where we subjectively shift into Atman itself. This is Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness.
Then we have Atman witnessing jiva (the focus of awareness) witnessing this body-mind. Atman and jiva are both consciousness so are not experienced as 2 things though. It is simply consciousness observing but now from infinity, through a point.
Before this event, the ego sense is still at play. With this event, the core sense of me is shattered, allowing the ever-present Self to shine through.
Even after a shift, it’s common for the person to fall back into the mind for a time. This does not mean the awakening has not happened, only that there is something to be cleared to stabilize it and integrate it. Adyashanti called this non-abiding.
When it’s clear, Atman becomes the ground for enlightenment to flower in, in the variations it does.
It’s also worth noting that awakening is consciousness waking up to itself. The kundalini process is not what is guiding this – it is an effect of consciousness moving to support it in the physiology. Thus there are various traditions who describe the process differently. For example, I’ve seen people describe their awakening at the heart or gut. It would seem Shiva descended to meet Shakti there instead. And so forth.
Atman, btw is not the space, [they described] it’s the container of the space. The space arises in Self curving back on itself and becoming aware of itself. When you go more deeply, this will become apparent. Gradually, it’s all recognized to be consciousness/ Atman, even the world. And then we transcend all that.
Hope that helps make it a bit more clear. There are a lot of nuances in the varieties of how it unfolds.